Pandemic winter pursuits

“If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need” -Cicero, 46 B.C.E.

All geared up for the pandemic winter?  Chilling by the radio, TV, or computer monitor listening to forecasts on pending vaccines?  Wondering why, oh why, the grocery store doesn’t have any broth on the shelves today?  And you know the garden will soon be under snow, and there’s ice, and maybe you’ll stay in today.

So what to do?  What to do?  How are you cultivating yourself these daze?  Many of you are still working from new locations – how is that view from the basement or kitchen table by the way?  And what about those hours in-between?  You know, when too much listening and watching the news of the world can really strip your nerve ends raw. When staring out the window, you suddenly roam into thoughts of COVID testing, roller-coaster stats and bigger, existential realms.

So let’s talk about winter preparations and attempting to ensure that our mental states regain a foothold so that reality is better navigated.  And since that eastern garden will soon be most definitely under cover for a few months…

Green pursuits on a page

…books! There’s a shelf of garden books nearby that looms with green pretension…er…temptations.   The covers catch the light and reflect a touch of guilt that I’ve not read them all yet. This is the promised land – that of broader garden knowledge and inspiration.  Or maybe just horticultural voyeurism.  Some of my books, save a chapter or two, have sat for years waiting to be perused. Is this the year? Possibly. No doubt the reading will accelerate as I count down again to the arrival of seed catalogues but it’s a good start to seed one’s knowledge when one can. 

Winter scene with topiary in Longwood Gardens
Longwood Gardens in winter

What about an online course – some free, some not – offering up a plethora of pleasure and, ahem, intellectualism?  For the green in all of us there are oodles of options from all over the world – check on websites – Longwood Gardens, Kew, etc. Recently, I treated myself to an online tea festival through the Royal Botanical Garden in Hamilton. Oh my.  I had walked tea estates years ago while working in Sri Lanka and admired the tea plants, Camellia sinensis, and knew there were a multitude of varieties globally.  Winter just may be a great time to dig further and to taste broadly. And did you know you could morph into a Tea Sommelier through courses at local colleges giving rise to a professionalism in sipping with style? Tisanes – those bewitching elixirs made from aromatic herbs, plants and roots – could be the beginning of a tea garden or a pot thereof, to plan for next year. Potentially exhausting – must be too much chamomile!

Oh and puzzles.   And boardgames. Did you know some have botanic themes?!? These were the grungy boxes that somehow always wound up at the cottage when we were kids. I particularly remember my mom loving a large puzzle that was mostly black-on-black except for two ballerinas dancing in the moonlight.  For some reason that has stuck in my mind.  Or that an aunt is famous for puzzling without referring to pictures – working along the colour edges to find the puzzle logic. It seemed a pursuit not suited to my generation but that was hubris.  In the sunlight that edged out from the grey clouds this week, I laid out a green cloth on the dining table to do a puzzle a friend had gifted me.  It was huge.  A 1000 pieces – way more that 999. And then, although it meant breakfast and dinner had to be eaten elsewhere, it entranced me –  it became meditative.  Not a bad thing – and then a day slipped away. Think of the focus I’ll be able to apply to garden planning…eventually!

What about pets? Four-footed companions are so welcome at all times but be aware, they can only take so much petting and oh my, any attempted conversation is way too often one-sided…especially if it’s about a food dish unfathomably empty.  Furgus, the great grey cat in this house as you may know, now walks the halls with us.  He keeps pace with our quick step or plod. He’s also gotten used to us picking him up to tuck him into a pile of something soft for the necessary thousands of naps in a day. He goes up and down the stairs when we do and stands by the door if we’re going out.  It may bolster one’s ego to think that something with such steely eyed focus on you is to be admired but trust me, it wears thin when he jumps into the puzzle box or onto your head at night.  Give the wee guys some space so they can work out new routines all of their own.  Too much petting may end up in a less than hirsute companion – keep an eye out for the omnipresent fur balls that dance around the house and lurk in every corner.  Hmmm. Might be able to use them in the garden to repel groundhogs?  Worth a try – now how do I catch those rolling little fluffbulls?

It’s a snapshot of a personal strategy for this pandemic winter.  I’ll worry along with the rest of us but am determined to plot a course forward, well rooted in personal cultivation of self and spirit, seeded with new knowledge from a diverse range of pursuits that will blossom fully, one hopes, in a better year.  And now if only the cat would sit still. Purrfect.

Awww – Furgus likes books too!

Author: Heather

Welcome to my interpretation of what a garden is. Beyond the blooms, shrubs, trees and weeds outside, I see "garden" encompassing a creative life, daily musings, the challenges that lurk and the joys of everyday adventure and wonder.

8 thoughts on “Pandemic winter pursuits”

  1. Heather — enjoying your writing… you mentioned board games with a botanic theme — I am mostly not a gamer, but friends of mine introduced me to Wingspan last year. Not specifically botanic, but certainly about different habitats that birds occupy –where they live and what they consume.
    Best wishes,


    1. Thank-you Mark. Oh that sounds wonderful – we’ll flock to the local game store and try to lay hands on it. Must say Mark, this is an enhanced time to develop our nascent birdwatching skills in this house. Enjoy the winter ahead!


  2. Heather, some of those unread garden books may have landed on my bookshelf. I promise to return them once we get out of these Persephone Days…about February 7 in this latitude. I checked today and twilight started at 6:51 am and ended at 4:53, which gave us a little less than 9 hours of daylight. That’s barely enough time to get into those pandemic pastimes you write about with such enthusiasm. Love your ideas.


  3. Hi Heather, What a beautiful essay from start to finish. Penning essays is yet another activity to add to the list of pandemic pastimes. The section on tea was interesting in light of my recent discovery of pu’er fermented tea which calms digestion magically. It’s made by Pique tea, which has many wonderful products. And as for gardens, we have a new tropical one of sorts in our entry way featuring a white bird of paradise and two varieties Dracaena. They add a wonderful bright green contrast to the lack of greenery outside. Best wishes for the holidays.


    1. Now that sounds like an interesting drink – will look for it! We’re festooning this weekend – basically every decoration we have in every nook and cranny – hohoho. Enjoy your holidays in your new home Paula – all the best for 2021!


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