As the last leaves of the year come down, seed catalogs arrive in my mailbox, and I plan for May under the Bedding Plant Moon. Usually, I order a few packages of geraniums, coleus and petunias, and I start them under grow lights close to the furnace, which happens to be in the attic.
If I keep the soil warm, moist and close enough to the fluorescent bulbs, the seeds germinate within a week or so and then develop steadily throughout the winter.
Although I enjoy the flowers that the plants produce in spring and summer, for me, the best part of sprouting seeds in winter is sitting next to them, feeling safe and disconnected from the snow and from the rest of my life.
There, the only sound is the low purr of the furnace fan. All around me and the plants and the soft lights, the space is dark and private. The smell of new earth thins the musty smell of the attic. I hide, shielded by a comforter that is part childhood, part angel.
My eyes and, it seems, my longing itself search the magical glowing green of the sprouts for meaning. All their prophetic power rests in their two or four leaves, all of their potential compressed into the most delicate and vulnerable flesh.
Here there is no thought of maturity or harvest, no logical conclusion, no socially redeeming value, no death. I do not think about the eventual work of transplanting and mulching, conflicts with insects and weather and blights. Even the promise of beauty, color and fragrance is irrelevant. Only the coverlet of this time in this place with these creatures makes sense.