Sunday, February 20, 2011


or Skeletons in the Closet

A few years ago I was hanging out with an international group of friends, trading favorite figures of speech and laughing at the way the idioms translated into our different languages.  Somehow the phrase "fixin' to" came up, and I can still see the delight on one friend's face—his joy at this manner of saying that no, you're not doing anything yet, but you might be at any time; that while you may look idle, you're actually working on thinking about getting ready to accomplish something.  Soon(ish).

Of course, it's a lot more fun being the one who's fixin' to do something than the one waiting for it to happen.  Right now, when winter is fixin' to head for another hemisphere and spring is fixin' to arrive, there's a lot of anticipation floating around without anything to attach itself to.  It's actually one of my favorite times of year, despite how painful the suspense can become.  Every day the excitement builds, and some tiny but significant change rewards your vigil—a twig that's come to life with richer color,  a bud that's opened up a hairline fracture in a bleary, Monday-morning peek at the world, a single leaf flaunting its green enthusiasm amid the skeletons of winter.

Make no mistake:  those skeletons still predominate, old snake-skin remnants of the previous year—the trimmed stalks and leaf-mulch, the sprawling dead growth on plants that still need cushioned against frost, the bare earth where the mulch has blown away.  This is actually the one time of year when I'm embarrassed to have people see the garden, as if all those skeletons are skeletons in the closet—as if this phase of transition is something to hide from all but the most tolerant eyes.

And yet, the vestiges of winter have their beauty, too—a decomposing leaf with its warp and woof unraveling, a study of tensile strength and fragility; the haphazard palisades of tarragon stalks, protecting tender new growth; the paisley swirls of dried leaves punctuated by dots of green.

I will not miss winter when it goes, but despite the suspense and the eager wait for greenery and blossoms, I may as well enjoy it while it stays.  To try to see winter beauty on spring terms is to miss it altogether—almost as pointless as berating winter because it hasn't yet yielded to spring.

After all, it's fixin' to.


  1. Loved this! I remember when Tracy and I reconnected, he told me he was "fixin to" work on his car, and being the Yankee that I am, I had no idea what he really meant--did this mean he was busy now, or did we have time because fixing the car was something he knew he ought to do but was in no hurry to do.

    I just love the juxtaposition of fixin' to applied to spring. I've been searching for its sings myself, which exist, even in this lush state.

    Keep writing! These musings ought to become a little book one day.

  2. Hi Stacey, i am new here, thanks for picking my post on my hometown. This skeleton is beautiful, a friend in the lab also simulate this with chemical solutions and the remaining skeletons are mounted beautifully when dried.

  3. What a lovely post. Your photos are gorgeous, and I agree entirely with the notion of enjoying winter for what it is, rather than complaining that it is not Spring.

  4. I'm so pleased to see you drawing new readers from Blotanical. Your essays deserve to be enjoyed by a much wider audience. Would you accept a Stylish blog award? You've seen the rules, it is circulating around the blogosphere now ;~)

    If a South African tells you - I'll do it now - don't hold your breath. In this country 'now' means whenever ...

  5. Lovely Stacy! I love the stage in between when things are "fixin" to change. Just now all we have is feet of snow and it does not appear to be fixin to leave! What a joy to see fresh new life emerging.

  6. Love the ghost leaf! These are a great teaching tool for environmental education, by the way....

  7. Tierra, it's amazing that you and Tracy managed to communicate at all! :D Enjoy your Florida spring - I remember loving the jacarandas in bloom there.

    Andrea, thank you for visiting. Your friend's work must be incredibly delicate - it sounds beautiful!

    Thank you, Landscape Lover. I was pleased to find your blog through the Gardening Gone Wild contest - your macro photo was just gorgeous!

    Elephant's Eye, I'm delighted that you would consider me for a Stylish blog award. I'm not generally a chain letter lover, but I would definitely enjoy the chance to promote some other blogs, so yes, thank you!

    I've only been to Switzerland once, and in addition to all the wonderful mountains and clouds, I do recall the trains being to the minute on time. The Ungardener must have really had to rethink his definition of Now when he moved to South Africa...

    Carol, thank you! As I recall, the next few weeks are the real acid test of character in New England - hang in there!

    phyte club katie - Do I detect the voice of experience??? How did you use them?

    Cheers, all, for the comments!

  8. Beautiful post, Stacie. I share your sentiments, especially those regarding not missing Winter when it goes but enjoying all its beauty while it's here. Sure beats complaining about it. Absolutely love the decaying leaf pic... stunning!

  9. Your writing is an absolute pleasure to read.

  10. Thank you, Carolyn - glad to meet another Western blogger!

    And thank you, Baffled - I really enjoy chewing on words. :)

  11. Stacy your words and sentiment here are lovely...I too wait for spring to finally arrive and know your anticipation...just a wonderful post and what a great shot of the leaf...

  12. Yes the tranistion from winter to spring is one of great anticipation and longing and i suppose a fair bit of excitement, as well as a time for me of impatience as I cannot wait to get back out onto the vegetable plot, but at this time of year it is just way to wet to work the soil without damge.

  13. Oh I just love the bit of playfulness in this and I've just spotted my first crocus flower at my mother's home last week. I'm on the lookout for snowdrops and ANY sign of spring. Also, cleaning 1 tiny part of the house at a time, 'fixin' for spring to be here as I can't do all my spring cleaning at once! :)
    Great to stop in here-you have such a beautiful blog.
    Blessings and Peace,
    Jan Lyn

  14. I can tell its a neighbor when I hear "fixin to". Only true gardeners can really appreciate the garden this time of year. We see the history of the last season and the promise of things to come. Only decorators have a clean fresh pretty slate all year long. Thanks for stopping by and picking my blog posting on the lettuces in the container.

  15. Donna, thank you.

    GV, it's a pity we can't average out our growing conditions... :/

    Jan Lyn, it's always so lovely to see you here! Hooray for the first crocus. :) The birds out there will start in with their mating calls soon, and then the peepers will be out. Hang on! I remember as a kid feeling like I was going to explode waiting for spring...

    Cindy, yep, a neighbor, with a Texan father to boot... I love what you said about the decorators - so true!

  16. Just visited for the first time and look forward to diving into all of your posts.

  17. Gracious, but I do love that expression!

  18. It's a handy one, Lisa and Robb, that's for sure! :)