The cheerless sun

James Greenleaf Whittier was more poetic than I:

The sun that brief December day

Rose cheerless over hills of gray,

And, darkly circled, gave at noon

A sadder light than waning moon.

Suppose he’s visited Chautauqua County?

For the past few years, I have jotted down the times of the daily sun’s rise and set. Nobody (‘cept me) needs all those numbers but it is interesting to realize the longest days (around June 22) have over 15 and a quarter hours of light. About now that has shrunk to a mere nine hours.

Six hours in six months! Yes, it does average an hour a month, 15 minutes a week. You can go on if you wish. The good news is that, by the 23rd of this month, we’ve already added a minute and, though winter has officially only begun, we are heading for brighter and, ultimately, warmer days.

I have discovered a happy way to move my season along: planting bulbs that will grow indoors.

I hope.

My girls have given me beautiful planters of brightly colored growing flowers. Somehow I have managed to kill them all – even the everyday ivy which friends claim is kill-proof. Not for me.

Last fall I bought two bags of extra large daffodil bulbs and duly put them in a pretty planter. They grew oh, they grew indeed. Tall green legs that eventually fell over and, more eventually, curled up and died. I surreptitiously peeked between those tight leaves: where is your flower? Nobody had told me that the bulbs had to freeze first. (I have a new batch narcissus this time in the freezer and hope to give last year’s another chance.)

I do worry some for all the spring bulbs I planted outside popped up right away. Yes, it was that kind of a fall, October totally unable to make up its mind whether to trick or treat. I’m hoping my flowers-in-waiting will understand and patiently tuck their noses underneath the coming snow until a more appropriate season for their debut.

My other problem which pounces to the fore during the winter months is my inability to kill anything that is living. Earlier columns convinced me spiders were friends and I fear I take the same route with houseplants.

Take African violets and I wish somebody would. I know (I really do) that they flower happily if reasonably dry. I still drench them with my weekly must-watering and they, for the most part, do flower and definitely do spread. Then I have to chop ’em up and divide what was one plant into three pots. That leaves me with a great many plants which of course are invariably the same color.

There are others that also seem to like me. Geraniums are easy to grow: break off a stem, stick in dirt and voila new geranium. The ones in the window box spend their winter indoors where they flower until it’s time to be moved out again.

My last gardenia (that was such a treat and my favorite fragrance) is struggling and the lemon, not quite barren, hates being in the house and bounces back only when it (it is a tree!) can be moved out again.

I survey the eastern window and realize a surgeon’s eye (not to mention knife hatchet, anyone?) is needed before I’ll even be able to enjoy the approaching longer days.

Can do. Some things are worth it.

Or, as Mr. Whittier so graciously put it:

God is and all is well.

Susan Crossett is a Cassadaga resident. Send comments to