The latitude and lay of the land lie flat. Like sky. Trees bare—whose limbs now ache for sun— stretch upward and skyward to find even they share this canvas of gray, monochromatic day. Reflections all this moody shade, nature lies ashen. Dormant yet still teeming with life, nature sleeps to a lullaby’s song. Somber. Etched. Temperatures dipping. Winter dropping.
Skies open wide, gray subsists on all strata, and moods stack visibly against an alabaster garden. A lull of sorts in the rigors and maintenance of Gardens at Effingham, days such as these require a hardiness of one’s soul.
The kittens, at 7 months now, flush beautifully with their full winter coats. Poofy and gorgeously striped, they frequent the food bowl together, an inherent pecking order amongst them, one often under the forsythia while the other one eats. At first this might seem like camaraderie of sorts, or siblings traveling in twos, but perhaps even more so for protection. The sky opens wide, a single, flat, gray slab against which any number of predators might conceal themselves, only to swoop down unexpectedly to feast on plump kittens. And the kittens, while sizable themselves, do not yet have what it takes to fend off hungry hawks.
Most Beloved sleeps too, though inside the big house and cozied fireside. She, too, knows to nestle close as late fall relinquishes its rich textures and vibrant hues, fades into nights colder with days more somber.
We all settle in—cats, gardens, we who tend both cats and gardens. The tea hybrid roses have been pruned back, the P.J.M. rhododendrons and forsythia hold buds that will open come spring, crabapple trees harbor bright red berries that will sustain our birds who stay throughout the winter months. Even our resident frog has ceased his ba-roomp, ba-roomp calls, for he, along with the koi, are hibernating in the pond. Color-drained flowers, long now since bloomed, dangle seed pods and bits of dried leaves to sustain our resident chipmunks, squirrels, birds, and an entire outdoor world that comes alive just when ours is going to sleep.
And so while all seems infinitely gray and now dormant, the gardens are actively preparing for a joyous spring. We have tucked in the gardens, but the gardens are not sleeping. They tend now to a life of their own, one visible above ground only in fleeting glimpses, though one as vibrant and busy as tending to our gardens will be come spring.