I spend a lot of time in my outdoor gardens growing things: fruit trees, vegetables, flowering plants, ornamental plum trees, Japanese maples, rhododendrums. Hundreds of plants each with their own lifecyle, passing in and out of the seasons. It's the way I was raised; my mother was a great outdoor gardener, both flowers and vegetables and even now at 89 years old, she seems to tend to her beautiful plants in her indoor window boxes as if her very life depended on it. And I suppose in a way, it does. Her gardening has sustained her through the majority of her very painful and challenged life. There is something profoundly peaceful and Zen-like about watching something grow. I never had children although I feel like I was part of the raising of my niece and nephew since I lived for a short time with my sister and her husband when Maria and Russ were babies. And I am connected to them despite whatever obstacles are put in our way. The connection is deep and mysterious. That's the way it is when you nurture anything I suppose. My little dog Luis has the same deep tug on me. I have had him since he was a tiny pup and now 12 years later in his waning years, the deep and profound love I have for him is more powerful than ever. He is my wunderdog. Hell, I named a screenplay after him. What we love lives on both within us and outside of us perhaps for eternity. Even when people and animals you love die, they are still in another way alive, in memory and thought. Just because the Japanese maple looks dead in winter does not mean it is. It comes back in its newest incarnation, more beautiful and stronger each time it makes it through the winter. And wherever there is a spot where once stood growth that is no longer there, I can vividly recall its shape and substance as if it still were. In my backyard garden I have a very large and very ancient oak tree. A few years back an unscrupulous tree guy told me I should take it down because it was dying. "You could put a patio there," he said matter of factly. And I thought about what he said because in truth the tree is dying. Each year there are less and less leaves and more and more of its branches fall to the ground. If I were practical, it would come down. Something about its demise, however, is quite lovely. I think it will tell me in no uncertain terms when it is time to go. It hasn't told me yet so my belief is it should be left in its dignity to live its remaining years any way it sees fit. It still provides shade and beauty. What it lacks in youthful vitality, it makes up for in wisdom. I look forward to the spring this year. It may be the last year I spend in this house. Whoever knows about these things really? So in April, I will begin the cycle again. Luis will sit by me in the garden while I dig up the soil and plant vegetables. He will lick at his paws, roll around in the grasses and chase squirrels, those dastardly critters. And I will say prayers and incantations to the flowering plum and the azalea and the old oak so they will stay just a little longer and fill the world with beauty. I can not get over what a remarkable gift this world is. Even the bees know that which is why they are sticking around when the human species works so hard to destroy them. You stick around too. No matter how bad it gets. Stick it out. It is so worth it.