Walking about Topsmead on this grey, blustery, November afternoon, I realize that my eye is no longer drawn to and focusing on the vertical height of the summer flowers and hayfields. The tall dahlia stems with their explosive blossoms in the formal gardens around the house, the waving fronds of the hayfields surrounding the house, and the abundance of lavender reaching up to attract the butterflies at the pollinator garden are done, finished for the season, cut down, put to bed.
With the summer vine growth cleaned off Topsmead’s many stone walls, my eyes can now freely trip along the horizontal length of those walls. With the remnants of the last leaves of fall stripped from the trees by our recent windy rain storms, my eyes are now free to roam across the flatness of field after field and follow the view out beyond them to the horizon of the surrounding hills.
Topsmead has transitioned from the upright verticality of summer bursting forth with its growth and energy to the flat horizontality of winter ceasing its growth and drawing its energy within. Some might bemoan this seasonal getting horizontal, but I would argue that getting horizontal is most necessary and actually rewarding.
Think of getting horizontal in human terms as going to sleep, either for nighttime’s official going to bed or for daytime’s quick nap. More and more, science is applauding the importance of sleep for humans. According to the National Institutes of Health, “Studies show that a good night's sleep improves learning. Whether you're learning math, how to play the piano, how to perfect your golf swing, or how to drive a car, sleep helps enhance your learning and problem-solving skills. Sleep also helps you pay attention, make decisions, and be creative.” Staff writer Eric Sumi at SleepFoundation.org explains that “what happens during sleep is dynamic.” He says, “It is believed that deep sleep plays an important role in recuperation of the body as well as effective thinking and memory.”
Now apply this thinking about the dynamism of human sleep to the natural setting of Topsmead. Just as deep sleep is a key phase of the human cycle of recuperation followed by growth and learning, so too is winter a key phase of Topsmead’s seasonal cycle of recuperation followed by spring awakening and summer growth. According to Mark Longstroth at the Michigan State University Extension, dormancy is the official word for a plant’s phase of not growing during the winter. This dormancy is what, in part, allows the Topsmead landscape to wake up refreshed in the spring and to get vertical and grow in the summer.
So...in this season of giving thanks, let us give many thanks to the DEP staff and the Friends of Topsmead volunteers who helped put the property to bed this fall. And let us put ourselves to bed this November by getting horizontal emotionally and psychologically so that we are refreshed and ready to get vertical come spring 2021!