When television first came to our neighborhood in the early 50’s there was a puppet on the Howdy Doody Show whose name was Princess Summerfall Winterspring.  I am she, now a gardener, grown up and grown old and thoughtful.  I have lived in this northwest corner of Washington state for more than fifty years and come to believe there are really just two seasons in our year: winterspring and summerfall, determined, as they are, not so much by temperature as by day length.  We are riding the round earth tilting towards and then away from the sun, our center.  We have recently passed the solstice, the longest night and shortest day, when someone sets the brakes and we roll back, adding seconds, then minutes of light to each day.  We have entered our winterspring which is confusingly long lasting, most years, from Christmas to the Fourth of July. On any given day of this season, it can be 52 degrees and we will simply shrug.

     We are still in the earlier weeks of winterspring and enjoying its blessings. We can withdraw from the world, revel in the quiet, watch the countless shades of grey that can share one sky. We can see the big shapes, the land, the mountains, the bays, the clouds and the silent trees.  We hear the shudders of the wind and are glad for the rain, actual wet rain that sinks in and stores itself for summer need.  The garden, too, lies quiet, a little muddy, bent and beaten by wind but containing all the energies of growth. The light starts ever so slowly to nudge us, slide into our eyes, speak to our muscles, and call us to the striving portion of the year.

     Soon the winter flowers will come: the snowdrops, the hellebores, the witch hazels, the skunk cabbage!  They will say: “Better hurry… the wave is coming”.   Today I cut some branches of black pussy willow and saw small but plump green buds studding the stems.  Collards, in the vegetable beds, have risen victoriously next to their unlucky cousins, the chards, which blasted by 70mph winds and a temperature drop into the teens couldn’t keep up their reputation as winter hardy.  Yes, things are still mostly leafless sticks and green growth turned to sludge, but winterspring is here and I’d best be on my toes.  The equinox will be here two-thirds of the way through March, only eight or nine weeks from now, and the whole garden will be pulling on my skirts for attention: weeds, clean-up, manure, pruning, seeds and divisions.  I just put Christmas away and am glad for the snowdrops reminding me of the head-start I have now, while I can still linger in my easy chair, enjoying the warmth of the house, and the soup on the stove. 

    The whole crazy season is evolving, hopping back and forth from a day that could be March, with warmth, sun on my shoulders and crystal blue skies over the mountains, to one that could be December with the iceman visiting again with his killing touch.  I am coaxed out with my pruners snipping dead wood, clearing old leaves, but all with a light touch for fear of the iceman, though I know his powers are waning. I pace myself accordingly, maybe on a good day next week I will cut a few things back to their roots.

     So I go, doing a do-si-do between the slow groggy pace of reflection and the rousing of energy to do.  I shake my head and set my course through the necessities and frustrations of the day, the months and the seasons of my own aging.  Winterspring gives me a little shove out of dark and rest and brings me to the thaw, the stirring.  It welcomes me back to another round.


  1. In our exuberance to plant, we must remember that we don’t grew plants, we grow soil. Healthy soil grows plants. We are fortunate to have a climate, if we can keep it, that also provides sunshine and rain.

  2. Ann, Your writing is a gift for me! As others have said, you have put into eloquent words what I have been experiencing. Thank You!

  3. Lovely piece. I had company from MN just before Christmas,4 inches of snow on everything, but they were really impressed when I fixed my Rosemary Scalloped Potatoes and stepped out on my porch to snip some fresh Rosemary from the plant on my porch. Love the Olympic Peninsula, been here a long time but still amazes me. Thanks for the reminder of warmer days to come.

  4. What a wonderful description of winter spring on our little peninsula sticking out into the Straits of Juan deFuca.

  5. Wonderful Ann. Your thoughts minor my own as sit here by the Bay and watch the changing of the seasons and the state of the snow cover in the Olympics. The world ages and I seem to age faster as I long for the gardening and growing I used to do when I was able. The wonder of springs renewal of life is natures way of saying ” Just what a minute, you aint seen nothin yet “.

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