For me, January is a time for reflection. It is midway between the fall gardening activities and the first inklings of spring awakenings. In this season, I observe the birds as they gather seeds, admiring their sounds, colors, energy, and survival skills. I love peering into the captivating eyes of the titmouse. Moments ago, a red-headed woodpecker was searching for bugs near my colorful turtle ornament. What makes those red feathers so attention grabbing? It made my morning! I especially enjoy watching as birds, butterflies, and dragonflies use my garden ornaments as part of their daily adventure.
January is often the time for making resolutions, and I have made my share (mostly unkept), from eating better, exercising more, losing weight, and being more organized. I do not need to make resolutions for activities I enjoy, even if they require great effort. Sometimes the less I focus on the outcome, the more I accomplish. The joy that I experience in the pursuit is its own reward. I aim to use disappointments as an opportunity to try something completely unplanned and uncensored. I do not always succeed, but when I do, it can be quite exciting.
As I meander through my frozen landscape, I recall all the fall bulbs I planted and those that I relocated last spring. I planted several hundred species tulips in their (hopefully) chipmunk-proof wire mesh cages, naturalized 200 (I lose count) daffodils to partner with my woodland origami crane garden installation. I relocated a mix of blue-flowering bulbs to create a more impactful scene next to my slightly too-showy red-leaved coral bells for a patriotic red, white, and blue theme in the weeks leading up to Memorial Day. In recent years, I have divided and moved many snowdrops into an azalea/rhododendron shrub border. Will they multiply despite being placed in dry ground competing against thick shrub roots? The magic of this simple, yet elegant, white flower blooming alongside the snow practically defines spring.
I am hopeful that last year’s gardening efforts will reward and surprise me. I regularly lose track of all that I did. Garden journaling and record keeping are not my forte. I smile as my gardening colleagues bring out their plans, plant lists, and labels. I look back at last season’s photographs and find myself admiring the very same plants that I likely thinned too vigorously! Plants have a way of looking great when flowering, but often become a tangle of fallen stems and dying foliage. I like gardens that are energetic and colorful, and I should be more accepting of the disorder that follows. Winter is an ideal time to be reminded of all that is important and what we choose to carry into the new year.
I have gardened and studied piano since I was 30. The gardens I made have developed much faster than the skills I needed for music making. Perennials and shrubs take a few years’ time to reveal the beauty of their foliage and flowers. Too soon, these plants will actually require division and pruning! Trees may require a lifetime to achieve their mature grandeur. As the saying goes, one plants trees for posterity. None the less, I now admire trees — optimistically 18 inches high when planted in 1996-2000 — that are now too tall for me to capture their full height in a photograph. (Wide-angle lens helps.)
The musical piece I have recorded for this “musing” was composed by Chopin in 1834. I first studied this Etude in my 30s, then again in my 40s, and, most recently, a little more than a year ago. With each re-learning, I have made new discoveries. It is called the cello etude (though not by the composer) because the melody is carried in the range of that instrument. The challenge relates to how the theme is handled within and between the hands. It should flow like a good story from beginning to end, and not be overshadowed by moments of overt virtuosity. Chopin’s use of the minor key speaks of great loss. The occasional foray into major keys creates equally poignant moments that remind me of the hopefulness and beauty around us.
The beauty in the natural and musical world fills me with intense joy. I hope, for you, too.