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Almanac January 2023

January is a creation story.

It begins with the wrinkled hands of a grandmother — perhaps your own grandmother — in the darkest hour of morning.

The wise woman knows the secrets of this barren season. She’s found warmth in the bone-chilling air; comfort in the aching silence; promise in the dwindling pulse of winter. When the frozen earth has nothing left to give, she reaches for the mother dough — the breath of life — then steadies herself for the tedious ritual.

The mother dough is a myth of its own: a wild yeast kept bubbling since the dawn of time. The grandmother feeds it once more — a bit of flour, a bit of water — then walks away. 

Breadmaking is a dance of time and space.

Tonight, she’ll make the leaven. Tomorrow, the dough. The rest is as crucial as the work.

At first light, a nuthatch sings its rhythmic song. Grandmother washes her ancient hands, folds the dough four times over, then lets it sit.

Two, three, four — sit.

Two, three, four — sit.

Again. And, again. And, again.

The hours tick by. The dough rises. The grandmother hums as she dusts the work surface. 

Creation is a process. After she shapes and scores the loaves, she bakes and cools them. Neither bread nor spring can be rushed. Such is the wisdom of this bitter season. Such is the wisdom of the grandmother.


Year of the Rabbit

The Lunar New Year begins on Sunday, Jan. 22. Goodbye, tiger. Hello, rabbit.

Considered the luckiest animal in the Chinese zodiac, the rabbit is a calm and gentle creature known for its grace, compassion and ability to take swift action. Those born in rabbit years are said to embody these desirable traits. Never mind their fickle nature and escapist tendencies.

But what does the Year of the Water Rabbit have in store for the whole fluffle (yes, that means bunch) of us? 

Some say peace. Some say hope. The rabbits in the yard suggest more rabbits.


Anyone who thinks gardening begins in the spring and ends in the fall is missing the best part of the whole year, for gardening begins in January with a dream.   — Josephine Nuese


The Blank Canvas

January is for dreaming. Every gardener knows that. Fetch the sketch pad. Reflect on last year’s highs and lows. Ask what your garden is missing.

This frosty month of seed catalogs and new beginnings, allow yourself to think outside the planter box. Or inside, if that’s your preference.

Is yours a kitchen garden? Butterfly garden? Purely ornamental?

Suppose you added more fragrance. Snowdrops in the springtime. Aromatic herbs in summer. Chrysanthemums in autumn. Honeysuckle and jasmine woven in between.

Color outside the lines. After all, nature does it all the time.   PS