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Hooking a Benny

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I love spring anywhere, but if I could choose I would always greet it in a garden.

– Ruth Stout

This March has blessed us Midwesterners with unseasonably (perfect!) spring weather. Normally mid-March is cloudy and cool with wind and sunshine adding bits of interest here and there. But for over a week now we have had delicious days of warm and sunny weather with highs in the 80s. Spring fever has turned into a real epidemic. After weeding our gardens and playing croquet, (and yachting and strutting like supermodels) it’s hard to remember that Last Frost is still over a month away and planting Impatiens, though so, so tempting, is not wise.

My garden is a full month ahead of schedule. My Redbud tree is blooming in full pinky-fuchsia glory as I write, while last year it bloomed for Easter on April 20th. April 20th! Trumpet vines and raspberries and hostas are all starting, bleary-eyed and positively Punk’d. Spring, at least for today, is here.

When glorious sunshine finally fades after a day like this one, and evening brings its cool humidity, I am able to indulge in my favorite fair-weather activity: taking a nighttime walk around my neighborhood with a glass of pinot grigio. My husband and I affectionately call this activity, “Hooking a Benny.”

I. The History of Hooking a Benny

When my dear friend was growing up, she would see her neighbor, Ben, walking the dog after dinner. When the weather was nice, Ben would stroll with a glass of icy iced tea, and enjoy a peaceful day’s end. Years later, after living in apartments and starter homes, my friend bought her childhood home from her parents and lives there now. And Ben still lives next door.

Awhile back, while washing dishes after dinner, my friend looked out her kitchen window at Ben walking the dog. And it hit her: That’s not iced tea!

II. How to Hook a Benny

To Hook a Benny, my husband and I always wait for kids’ bedtime and the cover of night. A Benny purist, my husband always drinks a very iced tea-esque highball of bourbon with lots of ice cubes. I always drink a glass of white wine, filled half-way. I have learned from many inglorious Bennies that when (not if) I trip on a sidewalk crack and spill my wine, I will swear in low German. So I now fill my glass only halfway full. (And swear not.) As an added benefit, I can then easily give chase to terrible, cocky bunnies perched about, munching on hyacinths like they run this town. We stroll like grownups, quietly taking in the peace of our pretty neighborhood at night.

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At night the air is fresh and floral, filled with the intoxicating scent of honeysuckle and pear trees and jasmine. Walking through our neighborhood, we can enjoy the evening splendor of so many great gardens. (This actually solves a classic gardener issue. After working all day in the garden, evening time is when gardeners are free to actually enjoy their beautiful gardens. But for centuries, in the dark of night, gardeners have stepped into their gardens and exclaimed, “But I can’t see a damn thing I’ve done!” Perfectly vexing. And perfectly solved by Hooking a Benny.)

While I bless Spring for days of gorgeous weather, I so look forward to Hooking a Benny at night. It’s a time to enjoy the satisfaction of an industrious day. It’s a time to recalibrate and remember who I really am.

And I’m only half-embarrassed to admit: sometimes, it’s my cardio for the day.