By Ashley Wahl

Flat lay natural light green snap peas isolated on white background pattern

January cold guides us inward. You find yourself studying your hands, quietly tracing the lines of your palms when, suddenly, there is movement in the periphery. A flash — and then nothing.

The mouse is back. How he gets inside you’ll never know. And yet, the mystery keeps you smiling, keeps you guessing. You catch and release him into the yard

again, and as he scurries off, heart pounding like a tiny hammer, you wait for him to turn around, maybe wink his beady eye as if to say see you ’round.

Here we are again, January. By some miracle we’ve made it. And just like the mouse, we carry with us new stories, new wisdom from our journey.

This is a time for planning and dreaming.

You order seeds.

Next month, when the first of the daffodils burst through the soil in rapturous glory, you’ll sow sugar snaps and snow peas, carrots and parsnips, lettuce and spinach, maybe mustard seeds. But for now, you’re back to quiet contemplation, thoughtfully observing the lines on the back of your hands. The etchings and wrinkles begin to resemble the rings of a tree. There are stories here, you think. Lessons in each tiny groove.

And out of the blue, Aesop’s Fables pops into your mind.

“The Ants & the Grasshopper”: There’s a time for work and a time for play.

“The Crow & the Pitcher”: In a pinch a good use of our wits may help us out.

“The Lion & the Mouse”: A kindness is never wasted.

You think of that crafty house mouse, smiling at his persistence and how you’re not so different from him. Your needs are the same: food, shelter and warmth. No doubt you both dream of the tender kiss of spring. And like the mouse, you, too, rely on a kindly universe to smile upon you, to gently guide you along your journey, granting you stories and wisdom for your future travels.

January is a year of lessons in the making. Notice the creatures, great and small, that remind us how to live. And remember: you are one of them.










Winter Blooms

Nature always gives us what we need. And in the dead of winter, when the bleakness of the landscape nearly becomes too much to bear, she gives us flowers.

Prunus mume, commonly known as flowering apricot, blooms in January. Its delicate, fragrant flowers — pink, red or white — ornament naked branches much like the cherry blossoms of official spring. Amazingly, this small, ornamental fruit tree was virtually unknown in the United States prior to the spirited efforts of the late Dr. J.C. Raulston, beloved horticulturist and founder of the nationally acclaimed arboretum at N.C.S.U. Raulston devoted his life to growing and sharing rare and spectacular plants, P. mume among them. This month, when its vibrant flowers offer their spicy aroma and the promise of spring, surely, whisper, thank you.


Hope smiles from the threshold of the year to come, whispering ‘it will be happier’ . . .

— Alfred Lord Tennyson 


Looking Out, Looking Up

How will your garden grow? Per Aesop’s “Ants & the Grasshopper” fable, now’s a good time to plan ahead. This month, order quality seeds and map out a planting calendar for year-round harvest. Sure, it will take a bit of work. The ants know something about that. But educating yourself on what to plant and when is a game changer. And when you’re harvesting fresh veggies from your backyard spring through winter, no doubt you’ll be singing like a grasshopper in June. 

But while you’re planning, don’t forget to look up. Although a waning gibbous moon will try to outshine it, the Quadrantid meteor shower will peak on Sunday, January 3, from 2 a.m. until dawn. The first new moon of the New Year lands on Wednesday, January 13. Consider this cosmic reset a good time to set intentions and launch into a new project. Through darkness comes light.

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