It’s been a slow and sluggish winter. The gray of the long winter is hitting, as it should because it’s March and I’m not super inspired to do much during the week. The weekends are skiing or OMR training or annual events, such as Sunday’s St. Pat’s Dash with friends. That day involves an early morning ferry, a 4-mile run, a couple beers in the beer garden at Seattle Center while dancing to a live Celtic band, the Stout Pounders, then food. After that, the options open to whatever, and this year it was watching Wes Anderson’s Moonrise Kingdom at Patrick’s, then rushing to go catch Anderson’s latest release, The Grand Budapest Hotel, which was, indeed, grand.

A slow mosey back to the ferry, catching every overpass and sheltered pathway possible, as a squall had hit Seattle at 8 p.m. Feeling defeated, dejected, no, DRAINED, we got on our ferry and sloshed back to our homes.

Today was a thankfully quiet and slow day at work, with no deadlines but plenty of busy little projects. I told myself it was a week of Spring Cleaning The Office. It stopped raining and sun filtered through the trees throughout the day outside my window. I knew I needed to get out into the gardens this evening, with light until 7:30 now, but I just couldn’t muster even thinking about the mental or physical energy required. Knowing that the rain would be coming back tomorrow helped some but not enough.

Then there was Shannon. My co-worker Shannon, an effervescent bubbly dark-haired woman who loves gardening and growing her own food like me. She has acreage and animals, including chickens. Her gardens are wild and uninhibited, from years and years of tucking away all sorts of plants she’s collected. She brought me a bouquet of forsythias last week that are still blooming their yellow clusters on the tan lean branches, with a few green buds starting to pop.

She showed me pictures of her greenhouse today after lunch and the starts of her spinach and other greens. Deep down inside, I felt a little flicker of spring and energy but at the same time, pangs of guilt. The leaves from last fall that I used to mulch the ground over the winter were still in my front and back yards, thick and slick from the season’s rains. My hoop house was still covering the garden and weeds were really starting to take over everywhere.

I mentioned just as much to her, and as I exhaled a sigh of defeat and dragged back to my office, she called after me, “You know, you just gotta get out there and start, because once you do, something switches on in you, and then, you know, you’re there.”

I knew what she meant. It helped some. I talked myself into not going to yoga this evening and that working in the yard would have the same meditative effects.

Still, I dragged my feet when I got home, slowly changed, slowly picked up the keys to the garage then grabbed the beer I promised myself I could drink while I worked in the front yard.

That first pull of Elysian Immortal IPA tasted like summer. That was a good start.

I pulled a few weeds, retrieved some tools from the garage and started raking the leaves in the front yard. Eh. Not as meditative or refreshing or invigorating as I’d hoped. But my mind started to wake up a little as I carefully worked around the hot pink stems of the Bleeding Hearts and tested the hardiness of my ferns with my rake. Are those primroses that have made their way to the front yard? I was happy to see my Rhodies made it through their first winter in my yard. I cut back the dead grass on my Japanese Forest Grasses and told myself I finally need to buy new Corra Belles for the East Gardens. I eventually dragged the yard waste bin to the front and began tossing in piles of wet brown leaves. I made a mental note to start thinking about buying fresh mulch for the front gardens, since barely anything survives there but it looks nice with fresh mulch.

I soon decided to call it an evening and started putting tools away in the garage. On the way there though, I paused by the hoop house, thought for half a second, then started unclipping the inch-and-a-half binder clips that secure the three-mil plastic to the hoop structure. I hung the slightly rusted clips in the garage and went back for the plastic, wrestling with a sheet that is twice as big as a queen-sized bedspread. I peeled it off from one end and walked it down to the other, letting it rest on the plastic adirondack chair. I walked around to inspect what had happened all winter under that opaque layer and found myself inhaling a huge breath.

It was almost like sucking in air for the garden, breathing for it. I’d taken a layer off, allowing it to breathe for the first time since November, and for myself for the first time in a while. At the same time, I just was really excited to suck in all that amazing garden air that had been trapped and working wonders.

My cover crops are thick, with only just a few weeds that were easily pulled. My chives are a foot tall. My swiss chard plants are short but are sprouting wide thick leaves, ready for their second season. The kale is going to seed but that’s OK. And whereas I thought the squirrels got my broccoli, lettuce and spinach seeds, there’s one sprout of spinach and a couple lettuce leaves. The green blades of the garlic and leeks are lined up like toy soldiers, just like I sowed them last fall.

It took a few moments to realize how good it felt taking off that layer. I felt like myself again and reenergized. Spring is really coming. Warmer weather is on the way. It may be a little chilly at night this week and the plastic may need to go back on just overnight, but my hands have been inaugurated with dirt for the season.

Like Shannon said, it definitely flipped the switch.