Some people might feel constrained by winter, but it’s a time when I am liberated from my garden. I am free to travel without worrying about whether my crops will thirst to death in my absence. Neither do I need to fret that weeds will overpower the vegetables in my potager.
Let the rainstorms lash the land. Let the ground heave with frost. From my warm, sheltered kitchen I laugh at the furies of the season. Laughter is good. It’s almost as good as communing with my pet vegetable plants in the growing season. Almost.
Now that I’m thinking about laughter, I realize that my garden supplies me with it year round. In the spring when I am first turning the soil in preparation for planting, I might pause to rest and catch a flicker of movement. I turn around and see that one of my resident crows has tiptoed up close behind me, the better to snatch any goodies my labour might bring to the surface. The crows are particularly fond of sprouted hazelnuts that they or the squirrels hid in the ground the previous autumn.
My turning startles the crow, and it jumps back, then takes flight. It’s brave as long as my back is turned, but not so brave to my face. I laugh, not at its retreat, but that it has grown bold enough over the years to forage so close upon my heels. This crow and its family are attentive to all that happens in their territory. Whenever I come out to mow the lawn or work in the garden they promptly swoop down to see what I have stirred up.
In the summer, I weed and weed. No, that doesn’t make me laugh. Nor does the bittercress, an innocent-looking little plant that is nothing but nasty. At the slightest touch of a hand, it fires a storm of sharp seeds in all directions with particular emphasis on hitting the human face and eyes. When this happens, you’ll hear me muttering, not laughing.
But later, when trading tales with other gardeners, the bittercress is a good, bonding, “Haw! Haw!” experience. It’s fun to laugh at the trials inflicted by this plant after the fact. Long after.
There are times I laugh at myself even as I’m suffering. I might be setting up the wand sprinkler to water on a warm summer morning and I need to adjust the position of the sprinkler so it properly covers a particular area of garden. I turn on the water and watch the wand wave back and forth. Hmm. It needs to move one foot north, I think.
Now, I could walk all the way back to the faucet and turn off the water, walk back to the garden, move the sprinkler, again walk to the faucet, turn the water on, walk to the garden, check the coverage, and, if necessary, repeat the whole process. Or, I could wait until the wand has leaned to one side, dash in from the other side, shift the sprinkler one foot north, and dash out of range before the wand comes back. I’m sure we all know which method I choose.
Sometimes I escape unscathed. But other times, the wand catches up with me and gives my nice warm back a lashing with cold – eek – COLD water. I do grunt at the shock of it, but I also laugh. Trust me, you’d laugh, too. What could be funnier than an adult playing tag with an inanimate object?
In the fall, I watch the crow family stride across my lawn, foraging for food. At each fallen leaf, they pause, reach down, and fling the leaf to the side. The vigour of their stride, the haughty disdain of their leaf-toss, and the swagger of every movement makes me smile, makes me laugh.
Winter, spring, summer, and fall, the garden tickles my funny bone and makes me laugh. I raise a toast in its honour – seltzer water, of course.
Some smiles for children learning the alphabet can be found in this video about the letter L: