Repost: To All The Christmas Trees I’ve Loved Before

Adonidia Palm -- also known as the Christmas Palm.

Adonidia Palm — also known as the Christmas Palm.

If there’s snow falling on this WordPress blog, it must mean that it’s December — and since I’m in south Florida at the moment, I have a feeling these digital dots may be the closest I come to the white stuff this holiday season.

Take, for example, my recent trip to purchase a Christmas tree.

In recent weeks, large tents have popped up all over. It’s as if lots and lots of circuses have come to town. But under these big tops — necessary to protect the fresh trees from the heat of the sun — freshly bundled Christmas trees are lined up like soldiers, the smell of pine is everywhere, and Christmas carols play from the speakers.

It’s also 75 degrees — and I’m wearing shorts and sandals, which are a far cry from my typical bundled-up Christmas tree shopping gear, although I did add a sweatshirt to at least create the illusion that it’s chilly.

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Ice, Snow & A Bit Of Frost

Hydrangea In Ice

I owe all of you a great deal of thanks.  Your kind and supportive comments from the previous post about my health issues and having to leave my garden were appreciated in so many ways.  You and your words brought me great comfort. 

Near the end of that post, I wrote, “I’ve made another difficult decision — to take a very brief hiatus from posting as regularly as I have, to wait for those beams of light to be strong enough to burn through the fog, to get to Florida and figure out how a garden blogger blogs without a garden.

“And when all that happens, you will be the first to know, because inspiration often comes from the most unlikely of seeds.”

That inspiration came soon after your gifts of words arrived.  I was walking around the yard, tip-toeing through the areas of the garden that had re-appeared after a snowmelt and that’s when I noticed something.  There, just barely above the ground, under the oak tree, was another gift — the tiniest bit of green.

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No Heart For Snow

Azalea In Snow.

Azalea in snow.

The snow is a show;

The drifts are aglow.  

You just don’t know

How I want it to go.

That’s where my playing in the snow begins and ends these days — because I would much rather view snow from inside the house or, better yet, on the television while lounging under a sun-soaked palm tree.

But that is not to be, now that the first snowstorm of 2014 has blown through and the news is filled with images of kids sledding and playing in the white stuff.  One local reporter even fell backwards into a field of untouched snow to make a snow angel.

I wish I could muster up that much excitement for the flakes — the snow, that is, not the reporters.

This weather is one of the main reasons I created my version of a knot garden.

This weather is one of the main reasons I created my implied knot garden.

There was a time when a prediction of snow ignited dreams of a snow day from school.  As a school employee, I still experience that rush — but it’s tempered by the frustration that now comes with snow.

Yes, it makes the world fresh and white — at least for a few hours — and it provides a chilled respite for perennials and bulbs, as well as a steady watering as it melts.  Snow is a necessary evil for those of us living in northern climates.  The older I get, however, snow has become less of a novelty and more of a headache — or, more accurately, a heartache.

Snow is a reminder of what I can’t do.


Snow waves, courtesy of the chaise lounge.

Eight years ago, winter cold made me acutely aware of an ache down my left arm.  Once I warmed up to room temperature, the ache disappeared.  It was a pinched nerve, I rationalized, that was aggravated by cold.

Spring arrived that year, and the ache remained — only now it was accompanied by shortness of breath and could occur with any physical exertion.  At the end of the school year, I scheduled a doctor appointment, where my EKG was normal.  Fortunately, my primary phoned a cardiologist, and made a next-day appointment for me.

At that appointment, my EKG and blood pressure were again normal, but the cardiologist asked if I would like to take a nuclear stress test.  He described it as a walk on a treadmill to elevate my heart rate.  How hard could a walk be?

Snowy table for two.

Snowy table for two.

I failed that test, and from his office, I was sent to a nearby hospital.  Blood tests indicated that at some point I had suffered a very mild heart attack.  In a matter of days, I was diagnosed with Coronary Artery Disease (CAD) and had eight stents placed in my coronary arteries.

One of the medical personnel who stopped in to check on me insisted that I had a love for the other kind of white powder, if you get my drift, because I didn’t fit into any of his preconceived notions of a heart patient.  I wasn’t overweight, had a relatively healthy diet, and didn’t smoke, drink, or use drugs.

He failed to consider genetics.

Hydrangea or cotton?

Hydrangea or cotton?

Regardless, though, my cardiologist laid down the law: “No snow shoveling for you!”


I’ve always shoveled snow — from childhood, when shoveling snow with my father was like a military operation, to adulthood, when it was a winter chore that Joe and I shouldered together.

Today, though, I have 13 stents, a series of medications (which, by the way, seem to make me more cold sensitive), and Joe — who now does all of the shoveling.  That’s where the frustration lies.

I watch him through the windows as he shovels and lifts and tosses, shovels and lifts and tosses — and I’m sad because I’m unable to help him.  To do so would tax my heart.  Each snowy forecast is a nagging reminder that I’m a bit broken and slightly used — and with that comes the worry — the unfairness — that the snow removal responsibility falls solely on Joe.

Snow shadows.

Snow shadows.

Yes, I can help him dust off cars and I can make hot tea or hot chocolate for him when he comes in from the cold — but it’s not the same as sharing the task, especially for those storms that are especially deep.

Complicating this year’s first snowfall is the result of my most recent stress test.  I have a 40 percent blockage in another one of my arteries, which my doctor says can act up because of cold and/or stress.

Clearly, I no longer have a heart for snow — but, thanks to the parade of seed catalogs that arrive by mail, I have dreams of warmer, more color-filled days ahead.

And that’s the kind of medicine a gardener’s heart can love.

Warmer days . . .

Warmer days . . .

Yule Tune: White Christmas (Diana Krall)

Autumn Joy in Snow

Autumn Joy in snow.

This morning, I woke up to snow — and while I may not be a fan of the white stuff, even I must admit that there is something exciting, something magical about snow at this time of year.

Ivy in Snow

Ivy in snow.

On Long Island, a white Christmas is always iffy.  More often than not, if there should be any snow, it’s usually washed away by rain or a burst of mild temperatures.  Our snowy time arrives after Christmas.  Still, the iffiness does nothing to dampen our hope and excitement that this year we will have a “White Christmas.”

Pebbles in snow.

Pebbles in snow.

While many performers have put their own stamp on this Christmas standard, I’m always drawn to Diana Krall’s version.  Her voice, sultry and intimate, feels like a warm blanket — kind of like the one that’s wrapped around me right now, as I watch sugary powder dust and cover everything.

Bench in snow.

Bench in snow.

Oak leaf  in snow.

Oak leaf in snow.

Hydrangea in snow.

Hydrangea in snow.

Chair in snow.

Chair in snow.

Oak leaves looking like cookies dusted with sugar.

Oak leaves looking like cookies dusted with sugar.

When Winter White Goes Green


As the February snow melts and re-freezes, taking on the look and sound of carved Styrofoam, Long Island elected officials are scrambling to come up with answers for how municipalities so badly handled snow removal.  There is talk of contracts, lack of direction, an overwhelming amount of snow, and the resignation of one highway supervisor — so much talk, in fact, that it’s all starting to sound like a snow job as historical as the blizzard itself.

If only they had paid more attention to “The Mary Tyler Moore Show.”  There always seemed to be snow falling on the other side of the massive window in Mary’s adorable apartment — you know, the one on the top floor of Phyllis’s house.   I often dreamt that I would like to live in Mary’s apartment — if only to have Rhoda as a friend.

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Walking In A Winter Blunderland

The same bench from previous post.

The same bench from previous post.

Yesterday, I was humming Christmas carols.  Today, my lyrics sound more like this:

“There’s got to be a morning after, if we can hold on through the night

We have a chance to find the sunshine; let’s keep on looking for the light.

 Oh, can’t you see the morning after? It’s waiting right outside the storm.

Why don’t we cross the bridge together and find a place that’s safe and warm?”

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Snow Falling On . . . Well . . . Everything!


Snow falling on the bench.

I arrived home from work today, just in time for the opening volley of a February blizzard.  Like a good blogger, I grabbed the camera, ventured out into the 1″ of snow, took some photos,  and hummed a few songs to myself — songs better suited for Christmas.

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Bloomin’ Update 16: Ageless & Evergreen

White Pine

First, let me say that I loathe snow.   My loathing is contingent upon the depth of said white stuff.  The deeper it gets, the loathier I get.  While the weather forecasters have reminded us of this year’s snow deficit, that is of little consolation to me. 

I dislike dressing in layer upon layer just to go outside to get the mail.  The cardiologist has given me strict orders to not even think of shoveling this marshmallow world.  And here on Long Island, we are very often on the cusp of snow and water, which means that a snowy day results in a super-sized slushy.  So, let me say that I will not powder this post with words like fluffy and blanket and sugar.  This will not be an ode to snow.

That, at least, is my first reaction when I see snow.  It isn’t until I really look at snow that I can embrace its wonder, how it blows and drifts and catches on branches.  Snow, I think, makes me appreciate evergreens more than ever. 

My window of awe is a brief one, and this is my moment to enjoy winter white.

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To All The Christmas Trees I’ve Loved Before

Part of the blogging experience is visiting other blogs –  for advice, for ideas, and in the case of this post, for inspiration.  I recently visited Visionary Gleam, where Jim Lewis posted “O Tanenbox, O Tanenbox,” a humorous and poignant look at his family’s Christmas tree tradition and the story of the ornaments. 

I am a bit of a Scrooge when it comes to this most wonderful time of year, a fact that seems to worsen as I age.  Jim’s well-written post, however, has left me thinking.  A lot. 

No matter how cynical I have become, the Christmas tree has always remained my favorite part of the holiday.  Now, as I drive around town and peek into the windows of my neighbors and see their decorated trees, I wonder about their stories – and I reflect on the ghosts of my own Christmas trees past – long past and recent past.

There’s a handwritten sentence in the baby book my mother started for me when I was first born.  There, in her cursive writing, is a brief sentence about the moment when the love affair began:  “2 1/2 years old .  Really knows what it’s all about . . . He says the tree has meatballs and a star.” 

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