James Stephens: "Snowy Remote Light" - 2002,
The gardener in January is a dreamer. January is undoubtedly the calendar’s botanical nadir. Yet it also marks a midpoint in the chilly months from November to March. This middlemost part of winter is destined to induce in the impatient gardener a hankering to get over the hump. In this grim month, when the cold is coldest and the dark is darkest, the gardener dreams of a paradise to come. In the gardener’s reverie, January’s cold dark days give way to April’s warmth and brightness. The mind’s eye, sore from the general bleakness, fills with a verdant vision, stimulated, very often, by a garden catalog.
Were these same catalogs to arrive in May, the gardener would be too busy to read them. But in January, even a Sunday afternoon will seem like a fine time to lie beneath a coverlet and peruse the catalog’s glossy pages, festooned with fantastic flora. It is then that the gardener, in a trance, can look forth from an imaginary perch above a fanciful landscape, beguiled with virtuous visions of digging, amending, mulching and other praiseworthy tasks which are, of course, delightfully effortless so long as they remain within the realm of honorable intentions.
“How glad I shall be to work the soil,” the gardener thinks, “when the warmth of spring ignites fire in my belly.” “I won’t mind it at all, for it will be pleasant to sweat a little in the cool hot of spring, then sit back with a fortifying tonic, and survey the lilac buds and the cherry blossoms.”
But alas, the lush inflorescences that bloom forth from the catalog pages postulate an ideal that does not prepare the gardener for the runty roots that actually arrive in the mail in late March. If the gardener has been around the block a few seasons, all this is well known. Yet such experience does not prevent these dreams from germinating. We humans have learned to survive difficult times with benign hallucinations. Come sub-zero temperatures, come coverlet, perchance to dream.