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In my younger days, when I was nowhere near as sophisticated and informed as I am today, I would go to the mailbox for the newspaper, bring it inside, walk over to the wastebasket and - without ever giving it a second thought - shake out those annoying advertising inserts. In those dark unenlightened days I'd do the same thing with the catalogs that came in the mail - dump them. I don't know why someone didn't stop me from such reckless behavior back then, but no one did.
These days I'm older and wiser and have learned to save all that printed material because it comes in handy during the bleak winter months we're about to enter. Here in Maine, in winter, we need that paper to start fires with so we can sit by those fires and read. And we need lots of reading material, so those ads and catalogs are often put to the use for which they were intended.
Everyone knows that our winters here are way too long. All through these long, cold winters of ours, I sit in my warm, cozy, banked-up house reading and trying to stay warm. Occasionally I look up from what I'm reading, gaze out the window at the frozen landscape and sigh. Then I stoke the fire and go back to reading one of those catalogs.
What have I learned from all that reading? Well, in recent years I've learned that the seed catalog people, who used to send out their colorful catalogs after New Year's, now jump the gun and send them before Christmas. Come to think of it, maybe they've always sent them in December and I never noticed because - as I said - I was reckless and would throw all that stuff out.
Anyway, after spending time reading some recent seed catalogs I began thinking about all the impressive things I'll be able to grow when the weather gets warmer and the snow finally melts. Just yesterday I found myself saying: “When summer comes around next June, it won't be like other summers. I won't lie in the hammock in the shade all summer sipping summer-type beverages and listening to one Red Sox game after another. Come next June I'll be ready for summer when it finally arrives. I'm going to make plans and have the greatest garden ever. I'm bound and determined to plant all kinds of things in next summer's garden.” After saying all that, I remembered that I had said the same thing last summer. And what did it get me? Not much.
But I still like to take out my catalogs and plan a huge vegetable and flower garden, and I know I can accomplish it next summer, or the summer after that at the latest. Here in December it all seems possible. When I go to sleep at night I dream about turning that plot of dead weeds in the yard into a lush garden with perfect rows of beautiful vegetables and borders of colorful flowers.
So, I won't dare throw my valuable inserts or catalogs into the fire or the recycle bin. I'll save 'um. I'll read 'um. I've still got a lot of winter to get through, and it'll take a lot of reading material to get me through it. And there's next year's beautiful garden I've got to plan for, too.
John McDonald is a humorist and storyteller who performs regularly
throughout New England. John’s e-mail address is
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