Happy Holidays


Oh boy. Gotta say, this Holiday thing is again testing my usual good-nature. Christmas spirit? At this point, just give me something resembling a “will to live!” Spending money. Tons of money. Seeing “loved ones.” Spending money on “loved ones.” Arguing politics with “loved ones.” Having to be places. On time. Travel. Shopping. Crowds. Those Salvation Army people clanging bells at you at the grocery store. Chasing you. Cornering you. Arguing politics with you. Loud-mouthed ho-hoing Santa Clauses freakin’ everywhere. Cold days and dreary skies. Puddles. If not puddles, black ice. The most God-forsaken longest night of the year, timed to perfection just to add more stress to the stress. It can all lead a man to drink.

Grapes. An important component of wine.

Which is exactly what I’ve been doing for hours now, and exactly why this Rant will be so…whatever.

Thank God for plants, that’s all I can say. Not enough of them doing much this time of year, but some always seem to have my back. And for that, I want to say some nice things about them. First and foremost, grapes. From grapes, they make wine. And plants that fall under the collective banner of “grains.” Because grain with hops makes beer. And potatoes, vegetables, fruits, grain, and almost anything else that grows from the ground for spirits. I think it’s telling how clever early mankind was when it came to making booze. Seemingly anything they could pillage from the neighboring village was dumped in a crock and fermented. Dangerous, but so worthwhile. Even plundering hominids appreciated that a drink or two can ease the stress of dealing with “loved ones” during the holidays, especially while suffering through polarized, tribal times. Now, if we could only find a way to distill waste plastic and CO2, we would all be saved.

Hops. Totally necessary for beer.

But, you know, plants that make booze aren’t the only plants worth mentioning. The North American Rock Garden Society’s seed list just came out, so I’ll eagerly be poring over that while my wife is trying to make conversation and then ordering seeds for plants I know nothing about, hoping to grow them in places I don’t have. It’s so refreshing to sprout little bits of new green life in the basement in the dead of winter. Gets me jazzed for spring. Gives me hope. Keeps me busy. Hopefully keeps me off drugs. Reminds me to change the furnace filter sometimes too.

Just one page of the extensive North American Rock Garden society seed list. Starting seeds in winter is a healthy alternative to not starting seeds in winter. Having new plants to try in the garden helps make the concept of spring seem less fantastical. 

And the new plant catalogs are just behind. That’s always fun. Problem is, without fail, they seem to arrive the exact same day as my Christmas credit card bills. Very upsetting. Maybe I’ll order online before the bills come this year. Sure. Why not? That makes the math work better.

Plant catalogs like this one from Plant Delights Nursery will have you constructively reading plant descriptions and dreaming about gardens. Perhaps this means you’ll spend less time on News7’s comments pages saying outrageous things and calling people names under the pseudonym “BigDog72.” 

Meanwhile, winter grinds on. If we get a good snow or two, maybe I can enjoy the magic of snow etching out the tree branches as I sit in gridlocked traffic. Or, maybe I’ll find a sunny day to get out and enjoy some hollies. Nothing boosts one’s seasonally damaged soul more than a bit of winter sun and a holly in full fruit. Any of the red twig dogwoods, planted in mass, are almost as good.

Ilex opaca. The fair and faithful American holly. We need more of these. Like everywhere there’s a Callery pear.
If a holly has no leaves in winter, does it still light up the landscape in winter? Why yes. It still does. 

If I can just fit in that moment, that sunny, holly-happy moment, preferably sometime in the next few days, then maybe, just maybe, my heart will grow three sizes. Maybe, just maybe, I’ll find my spirit fortified for all the friends, “loved ones”, spending, travel, and Salvation Army bell ringers I might face in my looming future. Maybe, just maybe, I’ll discover the joy of peace and goodwill that lies buried somewhere beneath all the commerce and the bustle. I hope this happens. Despite the stress of doing too much, and spending too much, and just too much of too much, I love my family and friends. I really do. I want to see them. I want to give them things. I want them to have a Happy New Year.

Redtwig dogwoods. Plant them in mass, away  from the house, and enjoy visions like this from the warmth of your window.

But, just in case that bright holly moment doesn’t happen, and I’m not restored to my usual affable, smiling, cheerful self, I’d better head to the liquor store. Can never have too much bourbon around the house during times like these.

PS. I want you to know I had a successful run to the grocery’s liquor store. Probably passed some hollies on the way, but it was dark. Got a big bottle of cheap bourbon. And, look, I even made friends with the Salvation Army lady! So Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, Happy Holidays, Happy Solstice, Happy Winter, Happy Planting to you! Now, go look at pictures of plants, order stuff, and, come spring, plant something. Maybe a holly.


  1. I commiserate with some of your holiday gripes. My holly has tons of berries this year and I get some cheer watching the birds visit outside. My houseplants get way more attention than they deserve or need this time of year, as I plot next year’s garden and anxious await spring.


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