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What is this life, if full of care, we have no time to stand and stare?

– WH Davies, 1871-1940

I will admit it. It is difficult, if well nigh impossible, to think of something profound to write about January’s garden.  I simply cannot stand upon my ivory tower and proclaim to the masses the sacred list of Things To Be Done when I am only too aware of a thousand tasks I myself should have completed but neglected with a capital ‘N’.

There are the last few pots that need to go to the basement, a bird bath that needs draining, wooden deck furniture that should have been lovingly oiled and covered, a BBQ that could use a strong arm and some steel wool, landscape lights that never got wired up, and that annoying basket of odds and ends to be put away that greets me with guilt every time I open my front door.

I’ve got three bushels of apples in the basement, still waiting for their day to be sauced. Strawberries were picked and crushed and frozen in May so I could make jam when I had more time

[insert rueful laugh]. There is still fresh kale in the garden I could cut and freeze, or even prepare for dinner, instead of the frozen Green Giant medley mix that will no doubt greet my family tonight. And even as I write these words, I am terribly aware of two pheasants that sit, drawn, plucked, dressed and a bit cheesed off in my refrigerator wondering when I’m ever going to do them the honor of roasting them in their own juices.

And this is just for starters. Add to this the belated Christmas cards I must now scribble in answer to those received five weeks ago, and it does leave one at a bit of a loss when it comes to penning an article about January’s garden to-dos with any kind of authority.

Unless of course that’s the whole point.

I like to think that when those apples are sauced and the birdbath is stashed and I’m mopping up pheasant gravy with a piece of crusty bread and washing it all down with a lovely glass of Burgundy, that there will be a moment when every last task on my list is checked off.

And all I’ve got to do in order to achieve this perfect moment is to work from the moment I wake ’till the moment I close my eyes. If I eat my breakfast in the car while running errands and my lunch in the attic while sorting clothes and my dinner while I watch my daughter play basketball – I’ll do it. I’ll achieve it. I’ll get there.

Won’t I?

It is a fallacy of course. However it is a fallacy that far too many of us share. Furthermore it is a fallacy which makes us spend most of our waking hours on a hamster wheel feeling fairly, if not completely, inadequate.

And in our darkest moments, when the tasks are piling up, three kids need to be three different places at once, and our spouse has the temerity to ask for a favor (or at the very least, a kiss), do we question whether or not we should be this busy? Do we ask ourselves whether our lives are too complicated? Do we even dare to refuse another outside request or cancel a season of never-ending sports?

No, we pick up a lifestyle magazine or turn on the TV to show ourselves how everyone else is coping just fine.  Trust me – they’re not smiling that broadly when the camera is off.

That’s why this week, instead of sharing with you the tasks (garden-wise or other-wise) that I have completed, I would rather share with you the tasks I haven’t. And had I another 500 words of copy space, you wouldn’t have received the abridged version.

Although we should always strive for personal growth and a life that reaches upward and outward, there is too much private angst going on behind closed doors. We’re always going to have tasks that are undone, big and small – it’s a fact of life with which perfectionists like myself must wrestle. But when those lists become so great that they negate the joys of friends and family, home and garden, it is time to edit the list, not do your best to conquer it.

Do yourself a favor and re-examine that list – not yourself – a little more critically.