It had all started so innocently. In the dead of winter — a drab, colourless Canadian winter like this one that drives people to drink, or to think of drink. But what’s a non-drinker to do?
It was then that I bought my first such magazine, and began my days and nights of sin.
And now I have become a dirty old woman, the female version of the dirty old man who hides certain magazines between the mattress and the box spring.
In airports or train stations, I hover in front of magazine racks, feasting my eyes upon luscious centrefolds.
And there it is: Beauty. Naked to the eye.
My heart beats faster. When no-one is looking, I grab the magazine and head to the cashier.
If asked, I claim that I buy them for the stories. And do my best to keep a straight face as I tell this whopper. Truth be told? I rarely read the stories. It’s all about the pictures.
But I am a very responsible leader in a very responsible organization. So – if travelling with a colleague, I may also buy a camouflage – one of those overly-serious magazines about overly-serious things.
“Pornography for us older fellas”, my friend Les once called it. Momentarily startled by this blunt assessment, I giggled nervously, sure he could read the guilt on my face.
But I know of what he speaks. Oh, how well I know.
At home, and afraid of my husband’s scoffing reaction (“Another of those things?”) I hide the magazine under my robe and head to the bathroom. In the tub, I open the magazine and am immediately transported — to the land of fantasy.
Behold the beauties. The undulating curves representing the hills and valleys of my shameful desire. Beauties of every shape and colour imaginable, originating in exotic places such as South Africa, Latin America, the Caribbean and Thailand.
I inhale deeply, imagining myself breathing in their heady perfume.
Now intoxicated, swept away by their beauty, I am drowning, unable or unwilling to put up any resistance. Then someone knocks on the bathroom door. Before I can hide the magazine, it falls into the soapy warm water. My disappointment is palpable.
In recent years, I have been tempted to break the addiction. One year, as my resolution for Lent, I even packed the magazines in a box and gave them away.
But the path to damnation is littered with good intentions. As I endure this Canadian winter — the days of shortened sunlight or none at all, the feeling of being trapped indoors for months at a time – my good intentions fall by the wayside.
And off I go again, to buy yet another gardening magazine.
These beautiful photographs are by Hamlin Grange.
** N.B. I wrote this many years ago when I was a very serious senior journalist at Canada’s public broadcaster, but never published it. On this winter day, I’m dedicating it to everyone who’s ever had an addiction to gardens or garden magazines.