Winter Awakening and an Assortment of Seeds

Winter snow visited our home and garden this week and I’m happy that it didn’t stay for very long because it was really an unexpected event and we weren’t prepared for guests.

It snowed a lot on Tuesday night (January 17th, 2012), and my excitement was remarkable—though I know not why—except to say that up until just last month I would not have been able to stay outside in such cold temperatures for that long. So maybe I do know the reason why, but it is such a personal reason, having more to do with my illness, that I feel I must explain.

As I write this, the movie Awakenings (1990) is playing on the television. Based on the British neurologist Oliver Sacks’s memoir Awakenings (1973) it’s a movie about a group of patients who awaken from their catatonic states after being given an experimental treatment in 1969, and over time, the drug that they’re given stops being effective, and they return to their catatonia.

The mother of one of the patients describes never having asked, when her son was born, “Why? Why was my son born healthy?” But after his illness sets in later, she remarks to the doctors that she hasn’t stopped asking, “Why? Why is my son unhealthy? Why?” Then she must watch as her son slowly returns to being catatonic again, unable to communicate at all, after having had him back so briefly.

Chronic illness follows this cycle, and it is for this reason that I garden and grow seeds, finding in their annual return and growth the false confidence that I need, and an additional natural comfort when I need it. Gardening keeps me far away from the Why? questions, and instead, the activity leaves me suspended in a healthy state of awe and speechlessness.

For the last few weeks I’ve felt alive again, and I’ve been afraid to note that here on my blog.

One of the reasons why is that I am afraid it won’t last for very long. I have lived with many chemical windows both opening and closing much like the patients in the film, though not nearly so dramatically, and I live with the ongoing dread that I will run out of options. For the last few weeks I have been doing much better than I have in about 5 years and it scares me. I must admit too that I have been living, and that means I’ve not been here so much, and that I’ve been having fun and I’ve been enjoying the winter and time spent with my husband.

Taking pictures of the snow at 11pm was just the kind of activity I needed. It filled me with a funny kind of joy and I looked around at the dark homes of our neighbors and wondered why they weren’t out there too—just as excited as I was at that hour—and I realized then that my mood had more to do with my most recent “awakening”than anything else. These are often the joyful moments we spend by ourselves and that’s alright I suppose, I just hope that all of you remember to have them too.

So yesterday the snow melted, and while keeping warm, I finally began my last seed sorting session for the 2011 harvest. Maurice the cat felt like helping too so I let him spend some time with me on the floor while I sorted all of the paper bags and poured the seeds out onto paper plates.

All of the seeds are now out in the open and I am so happy that I am able to capture them all in one shot. This is only 1/8th or less of what I collected last year so this really is a big deal for me to be so near the end.

Some of these are from the wild and some are from gardens. How I figured them all out, when some had no plant ID at all, is still a mystery to me. If they’re without a name I have no one to blame but myself.

I just cannot believe that the process is beginning again, since I feel as though I’ve just woken up a bit myself, and although I am a bit terrified that this new medication may fail me, the garden must grow on and so must I.

7 thoughts on “Winter Awakening and an Assortment of Seeds

  1. Being optimistic can sometimes be scary because of the underlying dread that good things might not last long, but seeds are a nice metaphor; there's something cheerful about knowing that these tiny brown things will produce glorious plants and bring joy in the coming seasons.

    Also: Seed envy!


  2. Funny how the seeds somehow seem more important to me than before and a lot more precious because so many of them have been collected in the wild this past year. Plant hunting, and seed collecting, has been an incredible boon to me this past year and it's terrifying to imagine losing that freedom again.

    It is amazing to image that some of this brown dust I have has the potential to become an incredibly rare and special garden plant. Truly amazing!


  3. you are way ahead of me on the seed sorting! I dread getting started but once I get going its very meditative.

    I'm really glad we got to meet and hang out last week while you were feeling healthy. It's hard to imagine you any other way. I really hope it lasts so you can continue and come out and hang with us hort folks here in Portland.


  4. Ryan,
    I must admit that I used to be VERY social and that is probably why I seemed kind of comfortable. For the last 10 years though there have been so many issues with my swelling whenever we go out that we've usually only made brief visits—if at all. So far, I'm still learning what the new hiccups are and they seem manageable so you WILL be seeing me more often. Finally.

    As for the seeds, I must admit that nothing is really planted yet. Hope to get to that after we return from our upcoming trip to CA.


  5. Sorry I missed this post, we had no power for a while while the ice storm was here, and I missed a lot. I'm so glad to hear that you are feeling better, and making the most of it! I think I remember reading that you were pursuing a different treatment, that maybe was not covered by your health insurance. Is that the reason you're doing so much better?


  6. Sorting seeds you don't even know can be quite daunting. What you have there is an overwhelming variety of seeds, so i guess it must have taken you awhile to sort them. Good things they don't look identical altogether.

    Lovely post and photos,Ann.



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