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Between the Rows

Between the Rows: Get ready to make glorious mistakes!

The noted essayist and poet Charles Lamb (1775-1834) said “New Year’s Day is everyman’s birthday.”

As I look at the snow covered mowing near the center of Heath, I cannot help thinking that the mowing is like the first day of the year. It is perfect and flawless as the new year begins. It seems filled with opportunity and the promise of a good harvest. There may be only sunny days and gentle rains. And yet we all know that wind and weather will also act on it over the year. Drought may dry the hay too soon and rainstorms may turn it into swamp and rot the hay. Wind may blow down the circling trees. Pests and weeds may cause their own damage. But come the end of December, it is likely that the mowing will once again be perfectly and flawlessly covered with snow as a fresh year begins.

For many of us there are two New Years a year. The school schedule dies hard and long after we have to go to school, or have children to send off to school, there is something about the existence of the first day of school that allows us all a new beginning. We’ll do better, study more, be more disciplined, do our chores without complaining and smile and look people in the eye when we meet. All behaviors we’ll be attempting most of our lives.

But on Jan. 1, the whole world pauses and takes a step into a new year with new hopes, new possibilities, new ideas and renewed energy. I look at that field and I am looking into the future. I hope I have learned a few things as I have gone through life, but the view ahead always seems full of promise to me.

I have never been one for making great New Year’s resolutions, except possibly swearing I really will get the garden under control this year. However, everyone will tell you I am a great believer in visualization. Simply by keeping the vision of some desired end in mind, I think you will go a long way to reaching that desired end. I don’t know how it works, but I think it does.

So, as I look ahead I see a garden that is different from this year’s garden. That is partly by plan and partly caused by unforeseen opportunities, or the unpredictable vagaries of the weather, which is more unpredictable weather each year, it seems. I don’t know that the garden will be any more under control, but I have a list of projects: plants to be removed, plants to be added, trellises to be built, favorite vegetables to include and new varieties to try. Those are not resolutions, those are plans capable of change at any moment.

The British author Neil Gaiman has written many award-winning books for adults and teens. For Christmas, I gave “The Graveyard Book” to a grandson and I recently came across a new year’s wish of Gaiman’s intended for us all. “My wish for you, and all of us, and my wish for myself. Make New Mistakes. Make glorious, amazing mistakes. Make mistakes nobody’s ever made before. Don’t freeze, don’t stop, don’t worry that it isn’t good enough, or it isn’t perfect, whatever it is: art, or love, or work or family or life. Make your mistakes, next year and forever.”

I think this is good advice for all of who will be called up to do new things in the new year. Of course, I have to remind myself to be patient with all those New Mistakes — mistakes that I make and mistakes that those around me make.

I know I will make mistakes in 2014 because I made mistakes in 2013. Most of them were not glorious, amazing mistakes. You can make mistakes in actions taken, but also in actions not taken.

So, as I take a last fleeting look at 2013, I am grateful for the love of my family, for laughter shared with old friends. I am grateful that my back and knees are still willing to bend for digging and weeding. I am grateful to be a part of groups like the Friends of the Heath Library, the Shelburne Falls Area Women’s Club and the Bridge of Flowers committee because they give me the chance to make new friends, to learn and to serve my community.

So now I will turn face forward and march confidently into 2014, into the new year, into new garden plans and into preparations for unexpected pleasures and opportunities. I embrace the thought of the noted 20th-century Broadway critic Brooks Atkinson who said “Drop the last year into the silent limbo of the past. Let it go, for it was imperfect, and thank God that it can go.”

What do you look forward to and visualize for 2014?

Readers can leave comments at Pat Leuchtman’s Web site: www.commonweeder.com. Leuchtman has been writing and gardening in Heath at End of the Road Farm since 1980.

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