Saturday, November 19, 2011

The Frost that Giveth...

Twenty-nine degrees this morning brought with it the second appreciable frost of the season--but not a frost frigid enough to destroy many of the hardier perennials or even affect the shade garden, still protected as it were by the now-decimated golden canopy of the maple tree.

The front garden, exposed, bore the brunt of the frost, which visibly extended its icy grips across my miniature botanical garden.

If frost claimed the vestiges of this hosta, already ravaged by the first (light) frost several weeks ago,

then it proved an ancestral accoutrement for this Sedum ellacombanium, native to northern Japan and the Kamchatka Peninsula, which, flowering well into the chill of November, looks dazzling draped in frosty white.

The Siberian Iris, bespeckled with gelid diamonds, appeared to reminisce, never so close to its indigenous Asian steppe as on the morning of the first frost which clings to its elongated fingers.

The frost surprised me, but not for the expected shock of its arrival, its veritable message that the gardening season has ended. After all, my insomniac self counted not sheep but the number of times the heating system turned on since 1:48 a.m.; I was very much aware of the consuming chill of the night, constrained also by 3 cats eager to capture every kilowatt of heat emanating from my body.

No. The frost surprised me by what it instigated and what it claimed.

It instigated an unexpected if disturbing sense of release: a release from obligation, a release from care, a release from service.

How positively strange. I love gardening. It is my escape. And yet, like the gym and this blog and my research and my house cleaning, my gardening life has been hijacked. Frost announced that all is virtually over, and that the mess that I call a garden, once first prize winning but for weeks an overgrown mass of mess, no longer needed my attention. Frost proved my absolution for the paralyzing guilt that had been building up for weeks, caught up in the pressure cooker that has become the metaphor for my life. Frost proved its release. Frost saved me from my self.

As is my nature, I lapsed into brooding (as unbecoming as brooding may be). That sense of release has consumed me, commanded my attention all morning. In my brooding I have come to realize what the frost must also claim: my sense of abandonment, my hijacking. These must end.

We are not hedonists when we care for the self, whether care assumes the form of gardening, or shopping, or blogging, or working out. No. We are tenders of the soul.

And now I come to realize the importance of advice given to me several months ago: I need to learn how to ignore and to prioritize. To prioritize is not to put others always above and ahead of the self. To prioritize is to recognize that others must learn to tend to their own selves and to take responsibility for the choices they make.

Amazing: if frost is usually denigrated for that which it takes away, today I celebrate frost for what it has brought (back) to me.

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