Sunday morning, the day after Christmas, I poured a cup of coffee and glanced over at the weather station unit in the kitchen.
“Check this out, Marty,” I said, “It’s fifty degrees and the arrow says it’s going up.”
“Are you sure that’s not the barometric pressure?” he replied.
“Nope, it’s not.”
A few hours later, the readout showed that the temperature had climbed to 57 degrees. “This is really weird,” I said. “Maybe something’s wrong with this thing. I’m going out to the garden.”
Out of habit, I pulled on a fuzzy red hat, a fleece jacket, leather gloves, and zipped up my favorite, tan-and-tattered garden jacket. Gardening in Alaska requires the layered look.
Figuring I’d do a little pruning, I grabbed a pair of pruning shears, which my gardening students in Australia call ‘secateurs.’
I stepped outside, expecting a blast of cool, December air to hit my face. Instead, warm, desert-like breezes caressed my cheeks. Was I dreaming? What’s going on here? I felt, well, over-dressed. Wait, this is December!
The next morning, my phone and emails sparkled with comments from friends. “Hey, I read about you guys in the Washington Post,” one said. “Did you don your shorts and tank top and plant carrots?”
According to the Washington Post, the warmth was tied to a “sprawling dome of stagnant high pressure southeast of the Aleutians... Reinforced by unusually warm ocean waters north of Hawaii.” The “heat dome” brought additional warming and as it moved, Kodiak was directly in its path.
The Kodiak Airport recorded 65 degrees, while an offshore weather buoy recorded 67 degrees, setting a new December record for Alaska.
Warm air blasts notwithstanding, pruning roses and rhododendrons in late December is truly something new for me.
Speaking of something new, what New Year’s goals will you embrace for 2022? Take up knitting? Add kale to your smoothies? Growing a new variety of carrot? How about learning how to meditate or practice being more quiet and still?
After coming back into the house, I sat down with a cup of tea. The weird weather outside had rattled me a little, but inside, it was quiet and peaceful. It reminded me of a story by the great novelist Leo Tolstoy. He wrote a delightful folk tale, “The Three Hermits” which goes something like this:
On an island there lived three old hermits. They were so simple, that the only prayer they used was: We are three; Thou art Three; have mercy on us!” Great miracles were manifested during this naïve prayer.
One day, the local bishop heard about the three hermits and their inadmissible prayer. So he decided to pay them a visit to teach them the proper invocations. He hired a boat and sailed to the island.
“That is not the right way to pray,” he told the hermits. “Your heavenly petition is undignified. I will teach you the customary prayers.”
It was dark by the time the bishop returned to the boat. The captain unfurled the sails and off they went.
Partway across the moonlit sea, the bishop turned around and saw, following the vessel, a radiant light. As it approached, he recognized the three hermits. They were holding hands and running across the water as if it was dry land.
“We forgot the prayers you taught us,” they cried as they reached the boat. “Please repeat them for us.” The awestruck bishop shook his head.
“Dear ones,” he replied humbly, “continue to live with your simple prayer!”
Why am I sharing this folk tale with you?
There’s a difference between something you know intellectually, and something you realize through experience.
Take the bishop in Tolstoy’s story. No doubt, a learned man. Able to quote Holy Scripture. Does that mean he fully realized and understood what he was saying?
On the other hand, the old hermits — who had missing teeth, tattered clothes, and scraggly long hair — glowed with inner knowing born of direct experience.
Maybe not. Okay, here’s an example. I can wax eloquently in next week’s column about the fine characteristics of homegrown tomatoes. When I’m done, will you have experienced a tomato? Hardly. You need to touch, smell, see, and taste it.
In the same way, how will you know the rewards of growing your own salad greens? Not by reading about it in a catalog or discussing the nuances of good soil with a friend over coffee. You need to get your hands dirty. You must realize it for yourself.
Another thing. The hermits lived a simple lifestyle. Seems a foreign concept in today’s do-it-now, do-it-all world, doesn’t it?
Simplifying your life allows for making more meaningful — and hopefully — healthy changes. Simplicity helps quiet our quiet our ‘monkey mind,’ which means we can live more fully.
By the way, if you truly want to grow your own vegetables, herbs or flowers, I offer you a simple action plan:
1. Turn off the TV and your devices
2. Buy a pair of garden gloves and write your name on them
3. Make a list of things you’d like to grow
I’ll see you next week.