It’s a rough February, as all Februaries are, but I’ve been passing the time by imagining a room made of sunflowers.
This is an idea I discovered while staring at online seed catalogs and trying not to go crazy.
My veteran readers know that I’m always crazy, but especially in February. I cannot abide February. I love bright color and beautiful things, but there’s none of that to be had in Steubenville in February. The sun rarely shines and it’s down before six. None of the plants are alive. There are no parties or interesting things to look forward to. It’s just rain and slush and drizzle. I get so depressed it’s hard to write. Gratuities in the tip jar slow to a trickle.
This year it’s doubly depressing because there’s a car parked outside my house that I cannot drive. It’s still acting up and I can’t afford to finish fixing it.
I thought I’d planned ahead for February. Last April when we got our one big check of the year, I bought museum passes for Adrienne’s homeschooling, but also so that I could always have something interesting to do during difficult times. I anticipated my winter slump. I planned ahead, to be able to spend January and February when nothing good ever happens going to Pittsburgh to look at the Monets and the Van Gogh for free whenever I had a tank full of gas. That would keep the brain worms at bay. I’d solved a problem ahead of time for once in my life. Done and done. So, of course, my car broke down the week before Christmas and the repairs it needs all cost money. We spent the month of January waiting for the first of them to be fixed. I don’t even know what the most recent meltdown was, because the benefactor I know as Uncle Junkyard hasn’t been able to come out and look at it yet. I assume I’ll need an engine harness at minimum, in addition to those brakes and patching that exhaust leak. The estimated bill keeps going up. So do our utility bills. Every day brings us closer to rent being due. We have to find a way to keep everything out of shutoff, and that’s bad enough. We simply can’t get the car fixed.
If I were still a Charismatic I would either be dousing the car with holy water to make the evil spirits go away, or grimly accepting my cross because God always does the nastiest possible thing to you so that you can offer it up. And when I put it that way, I’m reminded that in my experience, the god of the Charismatic Renewal tends to act exactly like the devil. Funny how that works.
I haven’t been anywhere since December. I hate to ride the bus so I don’t even go to the library.
No wonder, then, that I’m going crazy.
I have been channeling my madness into seed catalogs.
When I was a spirited little girl, I would read the American Girl doll catalog from cover to cover and having my own Felicity with all the trimmings, to play with and make up adventures. I played out stories for hours in my head, not with an actual doll but with the photo of the doll in the catalog. Now that I am a boring middle aged joke of a woman, I do the same with online seed catalogs. I squint at photos of flowers and fruits. I coordinate elaborate bouquets of the things I’d grow if it were spring. I plan pasta sauces to make out of certain breeds of tomatoes and basil. I draw diagrams on scrap paper, forget where I put them, and set my coffee on top of them later.
Fantasies of gardens are keeping me alive.
I think about gardening and I remember: it’s only three weeks and a day until March. In March we’ll have plenty to do in the community garden, ripping all the old rotten plants out of the raised beds, putting down cloth to prevent weeds, finding a way to get rid of that wood pile, and then I’ll plant onions and sugar snap peas in soil that’s still ice cold to the touch. Maybe I’ll even dare to plant something at home. The stalking neighbor hasn’t bothered us since August. She’s stopped going outside entirely. She checks her mail and takes out the trash once a week, when her children visit on Saturday. Maybe she’s vanquished for good this year and I can learn to stop jumping in fear every time I go to my backyard.
It’s only seven weeks and four days until April. In April all the birds are really back. Perhaps I’ll set up a forest of bird feeders all around my backyard and fill the shady planter behind the house with leafy greens for Lady McFluff. Maybe I’ll fill the front planter with pansies and violas in bright colors to spruce up the front of the house.
It’s only eighty-three days until May. In May I can start my corn and squash and put my tomato plants outside. I’ll be burying my potatoes for the first time and watch them sprout up again. I’m getting good at potatoes.
I think I’ll plant even more sunflowers this year.
I saw a diagram online for planting a room made of sunflowers, and it’s captured my imagination. That’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to make a room of sunflowers. I’ll plant them in the soft soil that’s waiting under that useless wood pile. I’ll put down dowels or a fence for them to lean on so they don’t fall over like they did in my planters last year. And I won’t just plant yellow sunflowers but all kinds of sunflowers, evening stars and lemon queens and double sun kings. I can hide in there and wait for goldfinches to come out and feast on the seeds, and everything will be color and life again.
Maybe I’ll bring my paints out to the garden and paint pictures of sunflowers, to keep with me all year.
Maybe I’ll do some painting today, to pass the time.
There isn’t much more time to pass.
It’s just a matter of getting through February.
Mary Pezzulo is the author of Meditations on the Way of the Cross, The Sorrows and Joys of Mary, and Stumbling into Grace: How We Meet God in Tiny Works of Mercy.