Wading through snowdrifts to pick a salad feels like an oxymoron, but resolutely I plod into my garden. I sweep snow from the windows of my cold frames and with my mitten-encased fingers pry off the ice encrusting the Plexiglas. Tipping back the windows, I breathe deeply the sweet scent of humus and chlorophyll, the gardener's perfume.
I take that fragrance for granted during the long lake-enhanced growing season here in Michigan. Certainly there are those golden moments after a June storm or on a warm September afternoon when the air is filled with the scent of flowers and ripening fruit, but at those points my senses are saturated.
Now in winter I long for the smell of wet dirt and compost. Watering house plants is a poor substitute for a morning spent in the garden. Only my cold frames, sitting on raised beds and surrounded by snow, hint at next summer's richness.
Rows of lettuce, radicchio, mche, and chervil dot these miniature greenhouses. I select my salad by thinning the rows and rearranging a few seedlings. The wind is calm, and the sun has warmed the earth protected by the cold frame. Casting aside coat and scarf, I hunker down and weed.
In July, when endless rows of beans and tomatoes wait for me, weeding is best described as a chore. But January weeding offers respite from the dry air of my wood-heated house. I pull out chickweed and mint while overhead chickadees, tufted titmice, and goldfinches zip toward the bird feeder. A clump of budding violas are left in one corner in order to produce miniature bouquets later.
Within a few minutes the beds are tidy, and I firmly replace the windows. All seasons are precious in my garden, but few moments are as peaceful and satisfying as picking greens amid snow and winter sun.
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