Well it’s fixing up to be another Happy New Year at New Palin.   Of course the calendar and seasons on Mars are kinda relative.  Our longer orbit, you know, screws us up something terrible.  We generally follow along the Earth calendar  (hence the New Year’s greeting) which helps the missus keep up with everyone’s birthdays and such.  If you ask me the tomato crop acts like it‘s late summer.

2088 was quite a busy year for us.  New Palin now boasts a population of over 1500 residents. Most of us, as you know, are senior citizens, and the population is only increased when the shuttles deliver a new crop to replace those who have passed on.  We usually lose about 15 a year, and NASA says that for now well get 25 a year. 

Of course the Chinese have been handing us our lunch (as well as our tomatoes, I say!) in the Martian land race.   Their quadrant has eight colonies with a total population around 70,000.   Their garden domes are a marvel to behold.  They’re growing amazing things we hear, but we’re not allowed to visit yet.   Relations are a little frosty, you know, but you have to admit that the 21st century was theirs for the taking.   The admins here are always saying that the USA is the Greatest Country on Earth.  The missus and I would like to believe that, but Frank says we’re about as grand as Portugal – only without a single decent soccer team. 

Speaking of frost  we’re always seeing on the computer that winters on Earth are nothing at all like they used to be.  For instance it hasn’t snowed in Chicago since what , 2010,  I think it was.  Who knew that freak New Years thunderstorm would melt some of  the last snow anyone would see for seven decades?   You know the kids, they study that storm now in schools I hear.   It’s famous I guess.  It’s a benchmark for when seasons were still kinda normal.

Well I guess seasons change but traditions hang on.  The NASA admins here at New Palin are always comparing our colony to the state of Alaska.  Whenever the garden teams meet they say, “you’re pioneers“,  and  “you’re rugged individualists”, and the like.   When they built the cafeteria, we voted to paint murals of assorted meadows and forests  (the missus and her friends are great painters you know!) but instead they gave us a giant wallpaper picture of Mount Denali.   I mean, we know they’re trying to make a point, but most of us – save for those admins – are from the lower 48.

So maybe in 2089 we’ll at least get the cafeteria painted.  It could use an updating. Even Mount Denali, Frank snickered, could use a facelift.  Why, she hasn’t had snow on her flanks since 2054 and she’s now as green as the broccoli in a Chinese hothouse. 

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I have been a horticulturist for thirty years working in the Chicago area and beyond. I have lived in Oak Park for over thirteen years. My writing has recently appeared in the journal Ecological Restoration...