by Sarah Hodgkinson
Now in the third month of winter, the cold has finally arrived. Gardeners arrive rosy-cheeked and hidden under many skins of clothing. During the season of winter, the garden is quiet and growth is subdued. All but the leafy greens have taken a rest. Despite the garden being at it’s least productive, we use the opportunity to tend, weed and restore. The slow movement from autumn to winter has given us plenty of time to recover from the busyness of a summer garden.
And whilst there is no hint of change in the outside coolness, we are now beyond the solstice. The shortest day of the year has past and the days have begun to lengthen. Despite only minutes more of sun each day, we begin the movement towards the warmth and light of summer as the natural cycles of the year pull us relentlessly from season to season. Slowed and contracted by the cold, it can sometimes seem as if it is only the progressing seasons that have the strength to take us out of winter.
We dig potatoes from the earth and hold in our hands the secret joys that grow during hibernation; these are riches of past toiling that have lain waiting to be uncovered at an opportune moment. Washing the soil from their skins, we place them straight into the soup pot. What was previously put away is now dug up. What was left to wait, is now harvested. How easy it is to be fooled by what we see – outwardly dormant and inactive, though full of life and nourishment beneath. All of which is happening silently beneath our very feet.
Now beyond the solstice, we re-begin the return towards the light. The days grow longer and warm cups of tea and noodle soup herd volunteers from every corner of the garden. Steady work sees the restructuring of the creek and the creation of a pond that will become the home of wildlife and the gathering spot of people in the warmer months.
Some weeks we work at revitalizing the medicinal garden, though mostly volunteers do not stray too far from the tea shed. It becomes apparent that we are spending more time drinking tea and snuggling around the small chiminea than working. But is this such a bad thing? When we look at what winter is reflecting to us through the garden we see that now is the time to rest, consolidate and prepare for the coming months. Nothing can grow from soil untended and there is no-thing is in a state of continual growth or production, all have their ebbs and flows. As we do what is needed to maintain the garden we are reminded of the importance of rest, quiet and introspection as the necessary periods before the bursting of energy and creation that will be arriving with spring.