What a winter this has been! Chicago has endured the coldest February in history. And quite frankly, we are
all SO DONE with Winter. Ugh!
And yet, there is something special about the feeling I get when I am nestled into my home, warm and cozy, with no reason to venture out into the arctic chill and snow-covered world. It is hard to explain, but something happens inside that can only happen when one is not tempted to run out for all the required errands and responsibilities of the weekend. It becomes a time to settle in and fill the senses with the lighted fire in the fireplace, the smell of yummy biscotti baking in the oven (my favorite is butterscotch with almond), the sound of classical music, the big knitting needles and soft fluffy mohair yarn in my fingers, perhaps a favorite movie from long ago. Ohhhhhhh… those days are special and in my mind only the winter can produce them.
When we bought “the castle” 17 years ago, my beloved niece Megan was 2 years old and she decided that Aunt Neesh and Uncle Neal lived in a castle. Never mind that it is an 1896 Queen Anne Victorian built in urban Evanston…to her it was magical. She still affectionately calls it the castle.
Nowadays, Megan is in her second year at U T in Austin, and has admitted the castle was not just magical to her but also quite a bit scary, which is something that makes us both giggle. Many of the items I have collected through the years that are to me delightful, whimsical and happy memories of scavenging markets all over the world were somewhat odd and scary to little Megan. It all makes sense now… Over the years all my old portrait paintings have migrated to the powder room, and apparently floor-to-ceiling eyes observing her bathroom rituals was off putting. And then there were the 1970’s Italian robot lamps, which when lit were the stuff nightmares were made of! And the long walks down to the dark basement to get a soda from the refrigerator where if you aren’t careful you could bump into an ancient warrior statue! Anyway, I’m off on a tangent again……
There is something about living in this cold, snowy, damp, dark, grey city. We Chicagoans have an undying and relentless hope! The hope of spring, the renaissance, rebirth…where every living thing that had been hibernating deep beneath the earth is waiting to spring forward and present us with the new world of green and color and warmth.
The garden, the porch, the sun, the farmers market, the lakefront…All a new beginning, a fresh clean start and the solar recharge needed for our batteries to last through next winter.
And this year, in the garden of the castle, the first of my Dad’s transplanted peonies will begin to emerge from the warm earth and bring a special happiness to my heart, knowing they were his!
My dad shared many gardening tips with me, but the two that will always bring him back to me are peonies and the Viburnum Carlesii (fragrant Korean spice) which I have obediently planted as instructed, “Honey, plant it close to your door, so you will smell that smell every time you enter your home”.
So this spring, when the first peony buds emerge from the soil and the first fragrant buds of that viburnum open I will also remember my Dad.
My home, my castle.