A week in the frozen tundra of Washington, DC was more than compensated for by the rare opportunity to spend a chunk of time with a dear friend as she recovers (valiantly and with daily signs of progress) from serious surgery. Although our contact in recent years has been limited to phone calls and emails, in person our connection was strong as ever and we found ourselves able to pick up where we had left off with ease. It’s rare to have friendships that transcend time and place as ours has managed to do, and I’m grateful to count her among the few of mine with that kind of history.

Spoiled though I am by mild California winters, I found the bitter cold back east surprisingly refreshing… at least for the week. The finite nature of my exposure was undoubtedly half the charm. Every day I dragged under pathetic, whimpering protest gently coaxed my friend’s dog out for a couple of poop and bolt back home brisk but enjoyable walks around the neighborhood. Though I’m unaccustomed to bundling up in all the layers necessary to keep warm in temperatures that ranged from a balmy 20 to a decidedly less balmy 9 degrees Fahrenheit, it felt good to snuggle into my scarf and knitted hat, gloved hands in my coat pockets and feet toasty in my boots.

Husband and daughter survived nicely without me, thank you very much, though I can take credit only for stocking the refrigerator and freezer with casseroles before my departure. While I could thus be certain they would not starve in my absence, I was not entirely confident they would still be on speaking terms upon my return. Yet they were. Managed just fine. Even had a couple of good talks. Not that I ever doubted their ability to communicate without my mediation skills, but it was nonetheless a relief to learn that they’d gotten along so well.
Meanwhile, upon my return halfway through the weekend, I couldn’t help noticing that early spring developments in the garden continued just as nicely without me. While the white camellias have been in bloom for a few weeks already, this pink one is just starting to unfold:
These little snowflake flowers (leucojum) are among the first bulbs to flower in winter, even earlier than the crocuses. Even after eight years in California, it seems miraculous to be able to walk around the garden in mid-January and see all these signs of spring. I never take it for granted, just as I never fail to admire Mt. Diablo in the distance every single time I drive east through town or on the freeway. These reminders of the natural world remain inspiring beacons for me; lures to follow through on the endless yardwork that might otherwise seem like nothing more than a series of necessary evils.
In addition to the cyclamen, the daphne buds are swelling; sometime in February all the walkways around the house will be scented with their tiny pink blossoms.

And the primroses! There are patches of them all round the house that die down to the ground when it gets too hot in the summer, but at this time of year they spring to life until one day the ground is positively covered with their lavish, colorful clusters. Each year the patches expand, putting out more shoots and flowers and corrugated leaves to admire.

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