February, the 2023 Version

     Recording the strange and extreme atmospheric conditions of this year’s winter, makes “Her spirits rose…” feel a little like an infrequent weather report.

    It used to be one could make generalities about the months, we might have said, “February is this way or that way,” but now it’s only safe to deal in specifics. This February was 10 degrees colder than normal. Oh, and wet. In Washington, several days brought a dusting of snow, enough to cause trouble. But on the East Coast, temperatures soared.

     In January I wrote about our trip to Los Angeles during their historic atmospheric rivers of rain, but this month we enjoyed two days of the old California winter weather – 55° sunshine for a hike in the Arroyo Seco and visit to the Huntington Gardens. But for the rest of the days, a “major and unusual storm” soaked us – marked by frigid temperatures in the city and a record snowfall in the mountains.

     Each day, while her brother napped and sheets of rain teemed down the windowpanes, Sweet B and I sat at her kitchen table, drinking ginger tea, and making pictures. And, after a quick dash through the rain from car to art supply store, we explored the possibilities of a new set of Neocolor crayons and ink markers. Sweet B is reading now, and has just discovered she can, with effort, read Jack and Annie, the famous Treehouse explorers, on her own.

     Earlier in February, longing for some color, I spent an afternoon at the Seattle Flower and Garden Show. When I lived in Alaska, I visited the show to write about the display gardens and lectures, but this time I just wandered. All those plants for just a few days had seemed so over the top in the past – pretty unsustainable. (Although, knowing plant people, heroic attempts were surely made to save plants for new lives in real ground.)

     This year the display gardens were more modest – still beautifully full of spring bloomers like hellebore and bulbs of hyacinth, tulips, and daffodils forced into fragrance and color, and only modest and easily transplantable conifer trees. Shopping and eating opportunities have increased, including many marketplace booths featuring compost, making good dirt, and pollinators – hosted by people eager to share knowledge and encourage those activities. Those are gardening concerns more in keeping with our reality here, where a week later a headline read: “Hundreds of state plants and animals at risk of extinction.”

     But given the hope that humans care for what they love, it was good to see so many people in companionable groups, enjoying garden life on a winter afternoon.