Howling winds and swirling snow just outside my window is keeping me company this cold night. I don’t especially mind the wind. I think of it as detoxing the earth of negative energies.

Even though the weather has been blustery, I’m dreaming up plans for gardening this spring. I’m going to try my hand at raised beds and plant lots of tomatoes and hot peppers! That’s as far as I’ve gotten, for sure, but beets and carrots are distinct possibilities.

Late winter is the time of year my folks would get out the seed catalogs and begin a wish list that they would cull to a final, more realistic plan. Always, my dad would pick at least one vegetable they hadn’t tried growing. Writing the check for the order was an affirmation of trust and hope.

Gardening, like its kindred spirit – farming – isn’t for the faint-hearted. One spring, dad proudly and carefully tended the seedlings in the “cold frame.” Cold frames are small outdoor structures built to keep plants protected and warm. They are bottomless, usually low to the ground, with some kind of means to allow light in. You keep them closed or open them on good weather days. My dad built his from wood and heavy plastic in which to grow seedlings. He perched the lid open on good days, remembering to close it at night against the cold and frost.

Well, early one spring, a terrible storm came through—the strong winds and heavy rain that came around raised havoc with dad’s carefully constructed cold frame. Without particular care, the shredded pieces flew carelessly through the air and landed unceremoniously wherever they wished. Hail blew like shards of glass through the air, making mincemeat of his seedlings. I remember my mother consoling him, assuring him that they would buy seedlings from the local greenhouse. Of course, the loss of the plants wasn’t the only thing to mourn. Together they had worked hard at selecting, planting, and nurturing seeds into seedlings, coaxing them into being healthy and vibrant, a symbol of surviving life as a joint effort.

I think my dad had an extraordinary, soulful connection to the earth. In the evenings, he would sit at the edge of the garden, chewing on his pipe. He said his purpose was to keep the bugs away with his pipe smoke, but I think he was contemplating life and what it means to be alive.

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