A Pleasant Antidote


March 20, 2013, Northfield, MN.  My weatherguide calendar indicates that today is the first day of spring in the northern hemisphere.  A look outside my window reveals a thermometer reading 5 degrees Fahrenheit and ice glazed snowbanks completely covering the ground.

Just a year ago mid-March saw nine days of record high temperatures and one of the earliest springs I can remember.  So go the remarkable variations of Minnesota winter weather.

A practiced brand of northland stoicism runs strongly through our veins, breeding an especially strong love of gardening in many of us.  I believe the nurturing of rich soils, bountiful crops and dazzling flowers is our antidote for terrible winters.

While winter can certainly display its own brand of severe beauty in a multitude of ways, I think that by the end of a Minnesota winter most of us feel a deep need for rejuvenation of body and soul.  The miracle of plants coming to life after the long sleep of winter is a surefire cure for the winter blahs IF we allow ourselves to be outside and engaged with fields and forests, gardens and meadows, lake and streams.

No cathedral can surpass the majesty of a carpet of wildflowers exploding from a forest floor or a sunny meadow.  Even the best preachers have only faint hopes of energizing and uplifting our spirits as surely as a redbud tree in bloom or a bed of daffodils.

The spiritual rebirth we can experience as we work in our gardens is a powerful antidote for sluggish bodies, sagging spirits and frayed nerves.  In every country, climate and culture, the satisfaction of planting and nurturing the crops that sustain us and gardens that dazzle the eye transcend national boundaries, and political, ethnic, and religious differences.

I have a deep and abiding belief that planting a flower seed is an antidote for spiritual doldrums.  I believe that planting a crop that feeds people is an antidote for the insecurity of whether our basic needs for survival will be met.  No matter what task we do in our gardens,  we savor the satisfaction of nurturing something fundamentally good.

The planting of a tree is an antidote for all who seek relief from the relentless rays of the summer sun.  Patience is required.  One generation plants the trees.  The next generation enjoys the cooling shade.  By investing in the forests of the future, we reconnect ourselves to the primal wisdom and satisfaction of ancient ancestors.

As winter’s grip finally loosens give yourself permission to take the antidotes for cabin fever.  Prune a tree.  Remove the spent tops from a perennial garden.   Design your next new planting bed or landscape renovation project.  Start some annual flowers and vegetables from seeds.

Whatever you do, make sure it’s something connected to or out on the land.  When we are active outdoors, we administer to ourselves the antidote for an awful lot of the ills that plague human kind.