Sunday, February 14, 2010

Wall garden


The snow had grown stale. Most of it was gone, and only the places where the snow had been piled up after shoveling or plowing had more than a granulated plastic-looking skin. And even those bigger piles of snow were dirty. It was human-generated dirt. It came from car exhaust and dirt in the air, pollution; the scatter-shot, spot-pocked, melt-mottled surfaces of the re-frozen snow piles glazed by road salt or sand.
The garbage that had been there when the snow fell, or was added by the road crews after it had begun, was still around. Dog messes, litter, cigarette butts.
It was all the winter days I had ever known in one. Not the special, or magical, or “beautiful” ones that come with fresh snow. No sleigh bells. Sleigh bells only happened in commercials. There were cars, but not a steady stream.
Mostly there was nothing. Some moisture in the air, the temperature hovering a degree or two over freezing. Skies gray. The smell, if you could call it that – it wasn’t the smells you get at other times of years, the smell of things growing, or earth unfreezing in the spring, or dried leaves covering the ground in the fall – was more like the wet asphalt smell you get when a rain first starts, or after it ends. But there was something else to it – a bitter, acrid smell.
It was the odor of last days, holding on and digging in – embittered, abandoned, let down by the way things had turned out. The peculiar odor of old snow on urban streets, making a kind of grim last stand.
I’ve had days like that. I recognized the feeling. A lot of days that were gray, a little too cold, nothing exceptional either way, and nothing happening. Something would happen eventually. But not today; and not tomorrow either…
I take my garden fantasies indoors. I make a garden on my walls.
I had some photos up already. Not our photos. (Though we did make a calendar this year. That one’s hanging in the kitchen.) I worked with other calendars, old ones, which offered beautiful landscape shots for each month. Not necessarily New England seasonal landscapes. Japanese gardens; Mediterranean gardens.
I cut the photos out and pinned them to my color-starved walls. So now my color-starved eyes have something new to look at. I have grown pink-flowering cherry trees and orange-leafed maples on the walls of the study.
Just a few, I tell myself. Don’t overdo it. To help the mind bloom in winter.