Winter officially arrives on this day, leaving Peggy Hansen to consider the year past and to search for that last hearty strawberry.
You gotta give 'em credit, they try so hard. The odds, alas, are very much against them at this tail end of the year; long chilly nights, short days with weak winter sun, storms with bruising wind and rain, and lots and lots of morning dew. The moisture weighs down their leaves, and encourages the growth of mold and fungus. It also makes the petals clump together, hiding pollen from the few hardy bees that venture out on a frosty morning. Later in the day, perhaps, the sun will dry them out and the bees will manage to pollinate a bloom or two.
Meanwhile, the fruits that have formed struggle against a litany of pests that don't seem overly perturbed by winter. Still, somehow, they grow larger and slowly flush with color, striving for that brilliant red we love so much. A few of them make it, bright and proud and shining, and I greet them warmly but with a touch of melancholy. I know they're in denial, just like me. Looking at their lush, green leaves, cheery white blossoms, and bold red fruit, you could easily be fooled, but winter is truly here.
The strawberries of December put on a joyful, festive face, overdoing everything when the season, and the earth, tells us to slow down, conserve energy, and feed our roots while we await the sun's return. Solstice is a time to mark the turning of the year, to consider its harvests and its lessons, and to treat ourselves with kindness. It's a time to embrace the year's successes, and its failures, and build strength. It's a time to think about, and dream about, the seeds you'll plant in spring.
And it's a time to wander through the garden, looking for that last stubborn strawberry ready to be savored.