In a winter garden, I plan next season’s plantings. Reflecting carefully, of course, on last year’s harvest.
Now is the time for imagining the ideal. The time for optimistic enthusiasm before the rolling up of sleeves and the dirt of hard work and effort and hope collects under my fingernails. A season of dormancy. A renewal of strength, purpose, and spirit.
In this season of life and living, I’ll determine what’s important to plant. Which fields in my life to let lie fallow in rest. There’s preparation to be done. Research. Trust. Faith in the future. A belief in the cycles and pace of my own nature. Knowing the truth that all is as it should be: living in the cold, wind, and darkness of winter as necessary precursors to light, warmth, and germination.
I winnow through expectations, weeding out what I’ve got to let go. Sow starter seeds, watchful for what takes root. Which seeds prosper? Which seeds – promising as they may be – were never really meant for my own little patch of soil? Some seeds, I know, only sprout after repose.
How will I nourish myself? Gather strength? Coax growth?
In a winter garden, I reap what’s happiest in today, hopeful tomorrow’s garden will grow in it’s time.
make time . . . look for the light . . . appreciate shadows . . . find beauty in the ordinary . . . take one thing away . . . experiment and learn . . . change the lens . . . try again . . . focus on what’s right in front of me . . . move for a new point of view . . . think through problems . . . simplify . . . make adjustments . . . trust my eye . . . work is pleasure . . . it’s okay to make a mess . . . to create is to hope
Oh, when finally I feel better, the promises I’ll keep. The good will I’ll spread and gratitude I’ll share.
I’ll remember how I feel about most things. I’ll know how to string several words together to express a coherent thought. I’ll read fluently, keeping track of plot or ingredients or news. I’ll remember decisions I made when I was was well, when I was able to think clearly, when what was on my mind and in my heart was more dominant in conversations than my symptoms.
When finally I feel well, I’ll buy balloons for no other reason than balloons make it a party. l’ll revel in good health and confetti the floor, toot-tooting the New Year – no matter how many days late I am for the celebration. Big, red balloons. Full. Luscious. Bright. Happy. Healthy. Whole.
When finally I feel fine, the big, beautiful breaths I’ll breathe … fully and with utter appreciation. I’ll fold up my fatigue like a quilt at the end of my bed, ready – as it should be – for the very end of my day, not throughout it. I’ll taste. Smell. Smile.
Oh, the walks I’ll take, the hope I’ll feel, the life I’ll live.
What will I do with it? What attitudes and expectations will I bring to it? What goals, dreams, or ambitions do I have for it?
Or, shall I simply live it?
Come what may.
Life’s complexities are often of my own making – or perhaps my own participation. It’s likely, life’s simplicities can be mine as well.
Here in this day, may I be mindful of simple living. The choice of simple living.
What does this simple living look like? How will I know when I’m living it?
Maybe it’s in the noticing and then the appreciation.
Appreciating the burst of black crows against a blue sky. The prayer of a pair of leaves roadside. The ability to hoist my own socks after a debilitating few weeks of back pain. The first few flakes of snow adrift on a breezy afternoon.
A year’s worth of accumulated hope.
So is simple living walking one step at a time on the day’s path? Expecting nothing but noting everything? Delighting in each minute’s arrival and feeling grateful as it departs? In the moment, of the moment, and most especially . . . author of the moment.
How grand to watch the sun travel across the sky, taking great pleasure in the simplicity of being here to see it.
How glorious to greet the first star as night falls, grateful for living today and wishing on that star for a simple tomorrow.
If it sounds easy, it was not. Grief. Worry. Loss. Some sort of nondescript longing which comes and goes as an aspect of aging. I felt wistful. Wary. Proud. Driving in my car, windows wide open and I too open wide, singing along with the radio, wind in my hair. Up one side of emotion, down the other. I felt it all.
Some days, it’s easier to pretend I don’t feel what I feel. To push feelings away or replace them altogether. Shopping as panacea. Scrolling as anesthesia. But I’m learning I can care for myself in these times of strong feeling. I can allow myself the good grace to be exactly who I am. And feel.
Sit here, right here, I speak to myself.
Go ahead, cry. You need no reason or because.
Feel free to feel. You are a living, breathing, feeling human. So honor you. Care for you. Tend to you.
It’s a vulnerability I simply must allow myself.
Today, I am refreshed and ready. Hopeful and happy.
Circles and cycles. Bud and bloom. Belief and doubt. Celebration and grief.
Move inward, out. Outward, in.
Still. Sacred. Spiritual.
A revolution, a resolution, a plan, a path, a prayer.
Start here. Or there.
No destination in mind or notice of arrival. Back where I began, here I am returned. Again. Both renewed and changed by the experience of the walk itself, a guarantee that no matter how familiar the path, I am in fact a different person than I was the last time I walked it.
Spring too, here again. Another spin around for both of us. So familiar, but so new and ever hopeful. Both transformed and transforming.
From the one to the many. From the many to the one.
In the morning kitchen, evening memories linger. Too tired to wrestle with dirty dishes, I’m more likely now to leave it all be. Gathered eggs nest in a basket on the counter next to the remnants of last night’s dinner and a pile of plates. Just lately, I’ve come to love the quiet calm and purpose I find in a morning kitchen. Despite whatever state of chaos I might find upon my arrival, I’m so happy to be there.
I’m done with the guilt I’ve given myself over the years – choosing bed over tidying up. Yes, it’s lovely to brew coffee in a clean kitchen, but there’s delight in a warm bed after a satisfying meal too. I don’t mind the morning mess, and finally how I actually feel is taking precedence over how I think I should feel.
There’s hope in a morning kitchen, a kind of promise to the day ahead as the room’s set to rights. This morning I lit a candle on the counter as I began to clean. A long, white dinner-party taper lit simply because I like candlelight – even in the morning – and especially in the kitchen. The act of lighting – a prayer – a pause – a moment of appreciation and offering, lighting whatever world-weary darkness may be on mind.
I’m home in the morning kitchen. There’s a flavor of peace. Leftover nourishment. Contemplation out the kitchen window over a sinkful of hot, soapy water. I watch the bounce of a bluejay from feeder to branch. The trot of a turkey hen across the yard. The greening of grass.
When I arrive home again at day’s end, the comfort of a clean evening kitchen will greet me. I’ll no doubt light the candle again. Feel happy again. Home again. Content. Right there in the kitchen.
If you’re in want of a miracle, you need only visit New England in spring. You’ll find the glory you’re looking for in the unfurling of daffodils, the birth of wild violets, and the promise of lilacs. The splendor you seek will be discovered in a burst of forsythia alongside granite rock walls, and there’s something undeniably magical about the magnificence of a magnolia tree in bloom. We’re a ways past sugaring season – one of spring’s first miracles, and impatient as we are to plant in the garden, we welcome the soft purple velvet of pansies in a pot on the porch.
I’ve yet to see Canada geese, though I’ve heard a few honks. The turkey toms are all strut and nonsense out back by the chicken coop where the girls are laying regularly again. So many birds are back, and on my walk I hear a towhee whistle, a repetition I’ve gone so long without. There’s a persistent drill of a woodpecker somewhere off in the distance, and I feel almost dizzy with gratitude to be outside and warm again.
There’s a particular patch of peach daffodils out front of a favorite old farmhouse I walk past. I wait all year for their bloom. No blooms yet, but I know there’s a measured pace and pattern to growing. Just as I know the apple trees blossom sometime around Mother’s Day and the peonies a week or so after that, I know nature takes its own sweet time with no regard for human opinion or hope. Those peach daffydowndillies are late bloomers is all, and if pleasures like these awoke all at once, they’d be done and over, there and gone before I knew it. Too much, too soon is never a good thing.
Beyond the old farmhouse I can hear the rush and tumble of a usually slow and humble creek all proud and boisterous after this week’s Nor’easter. I’m on the watch for baby ducks paddling single file in the quieter water below the falls, or if we’re lucky, maybe some goslings too. Just to smell fresh water and first-mown grass feels almost impossible somehow. Wasn’t it snowing and cold only yesterday?
My silly watch measures my walk and my much slower-than-normal pace, once in awhile messaging: Are you done with your workout? I’m sure it wonders why on earth I’m walking so slowly.
As if that requires explanation.
I’m witness to the greening of grass, the golding of weeping willows, and the arrival of a New England spring. A privilege. A blessing. A miracle.