Notes On Dormancy / by Ryan Koch


I wrote this last winter, but all the blessed leaflessness and grey skies moved me to post it again. I hope you will enjoy this winter season too.

As a gardener of food-bearing annual plants, I have been a slow convert to the wisdom and rhythm of the perennials all around me. And in winter it is the urban forest of deciduous trees that impresses me most. These trees have taken up their chlorophyll and left their leaves to dry out in a burst of color. Then, after a number of windy days, the leaves are released to go build soil (or in our city’s context, to be dutifully gathered and disposed of.) This is a slow symphony. After the wash of color and falling leaves we enjoy a coda, bare branches reaching in all directions, glaring in the fall sun. We see nests previously concealed. We see the cold sky unobstructed. There is a clarity on a crystal cold morning that will focus one’s thoughts on elemental things: this icy gate; a cold crunching underfoot; the pale sun in the southern sky at noon. 

I can’t help but feel touched by this dormancy. The growing season is done. Growth itself ceases for a moment. The long nights are not a burden as soon as I accept them as they are: dark; cold. I see nature resting. So I rest too.

The work of Seedleaf, the growing and sharing of food, also becomes distilled in this quiet season. We are not growing food at our community gardens, but we are doing small things to nourish the soil. We continue to compost food waste. We continue to offer workshops to help neighbors learn how to make their homes centers of production, not just centers of consumption. We spend time listening to neighbors and stakeholders in hopes that we can have a more engaging new year. We consider the recent past and wonder about what programs and projects should be developed, and which should be pruned. 

The work continues. The planning evolves. Big ideas from just a couple of years ago (new full time staff person; the Urban Farm) are now coming to fruition. And we have more exciting things to roll out in the new year. Winter is such a short season. Soon things will be leafing out and setting fruit. For now, the anticipation grows but the plants do not. They wait and watch. Let us emulate them.