The Color of Winter

popsicle sweater

When it turned into late January and February, I started remembering the flowers that would be blooming at my old house in California.  First the crocuses and hydrangea and the plum tree in back, then the magnolia tree,  tulips, irises, and finally, my absolute favorite, the lilac.   I found a special lilac to plant, one that didn’t need really cold winters in order to bloom, and it paid off — it was such a beautiful bush every February, that people walking on the street wanted to take pictures and smell it.  It is one of my favorite scents, even if it is old fashioned, it appeals to my love of vintage everything.  I worked hard the first few years I lived there to have lots of color in my yard as well as in my house, and I appreciated every new bud that I saw on my way to work, as well as inspected the yard when I got home for the latest flower to show its face.

It is very brown here on the ground in New Mexico during January and February, unless there is snow, and then it’s white.  It turns out that I don’t mind the cold here at all, in fact I am usually warmer than I was in California, even though the temperature is lower, I guess because of the dryness.  I also don’t mind the snow, and find it absolutely beautiful, whether it’s drifting or blowing.  And we do have amazing skies to constantly watch (now that I can actually see the sky, which was often hidden by trees and buildings in the Bay Area), and the skies are often pink, orange, gold and gray-blue.  But I do miss my daily dose of flower color that helped me get through the hard months of Jan. and Feb.

I realized, as I sat doing my knitting in the new studio, watching the sky out the windows and feeling the peace of the space around me, that I have found my color elsewhere, although I hadn’t yet verbalized that to myself.  I am now knitting a pullover, using variegated yarn that is called “popsicle.”  It is very bright, orange, pink, lavender, yellow, and there is no doubt that I will be quite visible when I finish it and wear it.  It makes me really happy to work on it, and I think its gorgeous colors are the reason.  The other thing I’ve been doing is sewing a lot.  I’ve been ordering some really fun material, and 90% of it is colorful — warm oranges with East Indian prints, bright greens, several pieces of aboriginal prints that include all kinds of color and design, pink flannel, mauve with gold spots, Japanese indigo material with little dragonflies on it, and on and on.  I actually sort through the material several times before deciding which one feels right to work with and then I find just the right pattern for it.  I get immense pleasure from looking at all that I have.  Colors, designs,  and patterns are soul satisfying to me, and today I have realized that even though this is probably always true, it is especially true in winter, when I’m missing color in the outside environment, and when I’m prone to feeling gray inside, if the day is gray outside.  I like that I can figure out solutions to problems before even worrying about them much, it makes me trust myself and my ability to take care of myself.

I look forward to putting up pictures in the new studio, as I’ve just realized that is another way to find color when I’m inside.  Although that’s usually the first thing I do when I move, it’s taken a while this year, and they are still packed in the garage for a few weeks more.   Their brightness is in my mind’s eye, but it will be better next winter when they are surrounding me everywhere in the house and studio.

As for the outside here in New Mexico, we have planted bushes and bulbs and trees that are supposed to have color on them at some point, but I don’t really know this climate yet, and if and when they will actually bloom.  I know that there will be amazing wildflowers in the desert in the spring (if we have rain), and I know that I am ready with all kinds of seeds to throw in my new yards around the studio when it is time.  I’ve heard that mid May is the time to plant outside, before that is still prone to frost.  But now I feel like I can wait more patiently, understanding this strong desire for color and how to get it at all times of year.

I  heard that a woman who lived here and recently died, always had bright, plastic flowers in her car.  They got “planted” by a good friend in a little plot of dirt on Main St. as a memorial to her, and look almost shockingly colorful in the gray of winter.  I think she and I may have had something in common.  Someone else who figured out just what she needed.

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