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BOB GRAY: Grace and luck

By Sunday, Feb 8, 2015 Life In the Berkshires 1

Housatonic — Now that I’m a gentleman of leisure, through no fault of my own by the way, I find it pleasing to begin each day sitting near the French doors with a cup of coffee to watch the antics of the birds and squirrels at my birdfeeders.

But my story today isn’t about any of them.

By now, even in a “good, old-fashioned winter,” there should’ve been, by this time, enough bright and comparatively mild days to raise our spirits though there is neither solstice nor equinox in sight.


The book I’m writing in now is an old one, brown-edged and dog-eared. In it I have kept my lawn and garden plans and notes for many years. Even though it’s zero out now, I’ve begun this morning my hopeful entries for the coming spring and summer.

Each entry, year-by-year, seems to have its own character: some notes scribbled in brief in highly busy and successful times; others perhaps written late on a warm, rainy August night are more elegant, almost like small rhapsodies in detail.

I find wisdom, both borrowed and sometimes painfully accumulated, here. I realize I could have saved myself a lot of grief and waste if I’d only checked my notes more frequently.

Besides gardening remembrances, my journal is dappled with plans, each with circles and squares and measurements in my neat semi-pro-draftsman’s hand, for grape arbors, shed extensions, perennial beds, and this year’s project: a xeriscape for the front yard around the pine rows

This particular plan is the stepchild of a failure to figure carefully enough when I planted the young fir trees 10 or 15 years ago. It’s obvious now that I planted the evergreens too close together. Maybe I should’ve checked on someone else’s plan before I dug my holes to rebury tree roots.

I am not a man of great or constant religious belief, though I wish at times I were. But I do have faith in the proven dogma of the seasons, of sun and rain and warm and cold passing and coming around again and again over long, slow time. The one tenet I hold firm is the holy relationship between a man and the earth, the mother of all life stories tell us. I find I am the servant, much more than the master, of all I see.

I write my plans now not out of some mawkish yearning for warm weather, but so I might be ready to re-consecrate myself in the timeless rituals of breaking and penetrating the soil when the right time comes.

My old notebook, then, is my Bible, my missal, my prayer book, my spiritual record, there both to guide and to remind me of what I’ve learned, of where I’ve been, and where, with some grace and luck, I might be standing when the warmth comes round again.

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