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The Plant Cozy


For some deeply scientific reason, beyond my understanding, Mom has decided not to bring some of her plants indoors for the winter, but she also didn’t want them to remain unprotected from the elements, and therefore she made a plant cozy. It’s like a cross between a sleeping bag and a snow suit, filled with warming materials and wrapped around the outdoor plants. She chose bright colors, in case someone failed to notice that the plants were protected, or because the plants have their own unique fashion sense.


The famous plant cozy!

The plants inside of the cozies are sweet potato and dahlia tubers that need to be kept at around 40 degrees Fahrenheit. Ideally they would be kept in the refrigerator, Mom said, but she assumed that I would not appreciate the plants taking over the shelves and replacing, you know, the food.

It seems unfair, though, that only one set of plants get a cozy. Where is the sweater for the raspberry bush? Or the stocking cap for the paw paw tree? Could none of the maple trees use mittens for their branches? For that matter, the poor car must be freezing overnight. Couldn’t she at least have a scarf?


Maybe fifteen hats for the Hydrangea?


A few thousand mittens (and a ladder?)

I have tried to put the dogs into their own cozies, or jackets, but this has been largely unsuccessful. They shake off what they can shake off, or roll in the mud if possible, and then glare at me until the offending garment is removed. I do not have a death wish, and therefore have not tried to put boots on either of them (though they would look adorable!).


They wore their jackets, once.

The dogs prefer not to get dressed at all before going outside. They like to feel the wind in their hair as they run across the yard, without any impingement on their freedom of movement. And neither of them is especially sensitive to the cold. They don’t seek out hot spots on the floor, or curl under available blankets, though Cricket is a big fan of cozying up with her people.


“I’m free!!!!!!!!!!!!”


“Who needs freedom?”

Generally, I do not get too involved with the gardening. I hear stories about stunted carrots, and ground cover, and I sneak raspberries from the yard when they are in season, but that’s about it. The plant cozy, though, keeps drawing my attention. It reminds me of an especially embarrassed ten-year-old girl (AKA me), wearing her enormous new winter jacket to school for the first time, while everyone else chose sedate black wool coats that year.

For now, most of the plants and flowers are coming to life in quilt designs and photos on the computer. The vegetable garden is in sleep mode for the winter, with, appropriately enough, a blanket of leaves to keep it warm. The flowers are gone, and the leaves are mostly scattered under the snow, waiting to become rich soil. We don’t have the yearly seedling nursery in the dining room, yet, but there is a pile of seed catalogs growing on the coffee table, biding their time.

I think retirement has finally allowed Mom to relax into her creativity. She spends hours and hours playing with color and shape, trying to learn new skills in quilting and photography, and whatever else seems like it could widen her creative vision. I wish she’d been able to pursue all of these things earlier in her life, but having kids, and having to work to feed said kids, got in the way for a long time. I think Miss Butterfly has been able to remind her Grandma that play deserves just as much of your time and energy as other disciplines, and Miss Cricket has taught Grandma to be stubborn and stick to her own way of seeing things. I think the plants secretly appreciate Mom’s new way of seeing the world, even if the other plants on the block look at them askance for being colorful over the winter.


Butterfly loves to oversee Grandma’s quilting projects.


And Cricket is more paws on in her approach.

To The Beach

Cricket loves bird poop. To be fair, she loves poop of all kinds. When she goes to the beach, she noses every pole and bench and wooden slat, and she can inspect one blade of grass for hours if an animal has left traces behind. She is a one dog C.S.I. team.

"I think smell bird poop!"

“I think smell bird poop!”

The most likely offender

The most likely offender

Both of my dogs love the beach, and my Mom loves the beach, but I don’t. I feel itchy and grumpy and inexplicably hopeless there. I force myself to go, like I force myself to take vitamins, because it’s supposed to be good for me.



We got into the habit of walking along the boardwalk at the beach for twenty minutes or so a day when we lived at the old apartment. I was already struggling to walk right, and Mom hoped that the fresh air, and the soft wood planks under my feet, and of course, the handrails, would help.

Mom believes that the smell of the seaweed, and the swirling patterns of the seagulls, and the sound of the waves have a healing power. She takes her camera along and charts the changing character of the water.

A treasure trove of smells

A treasure trove of smells

summer 2008 to winter 2009 077

IMG_2279summer 2008 to winter 2009 079

When we moved to the new apartment we stopped our daily trips to the beach. The extra ten or fifteen minute drive was a good excuse, but not the real reason. Despite endless attempts, I still hated the briny taste of the air, and the indifference of the seagulls, and the squawking predatory sound they made when they circled a pile of stale bread in the parking lot. I was still afraid of the creepy crawlies that lived under the dark green water, and the slippery sea plants wrapping themselves around my ankles.

"Get off my beach!"

“Get off my beach!”

"Let go of my leash and I can reach it!"

“Just let go of my leash and I’ll go by myself.”

I forced myself to go back to the beach again in mid October. I felt silly for avoiding it, and I wanted the dogs to have a chance to socialize with other dogs, on leashes, and to sniff new things that don’t live in my backyard. Once again, the girls loved it, and Mom loved it, and I didn’t.

I sound like a curmudgeon. Beaches are supposed to be inspiring and life giving and romantic, and instead, they make me feel like life is not worth living. Even watching Butterfly sniff every spot Cricket had just sniffed couldn’t quite cheer me up. And I don’t know why. There are too many mysteries like this that I can’t resolve.

I’ll go back again, eventually, if only to make my family happy. In the meantime, I walk by the local pond instead. I nod to the ducks, and look up as packs of geese fly by, and shake my fist at the signs that say my dogs are not welcome in this lovely place, where Cricket could sniff bird poop to her heart’s content.

Bird Island, where no dogs may roam

Bird Island, where no dogs may roam

"So there!"

“So there!”

(All pictures in this post taken by Naomi Mankowitz – aka Grandma)