Spring comes slowly
to allow Winter
slowly and quietly
Winter’s retreat in these parts tends to be a long, drawn out affair. Like the ambivalence in the ending of a complicated relationship, there are usually a few stormy dramas before the absolute end. Not this year, here at the 45th parallel north. One day there was snow, the next day green grass everywhere. It’s given us a wonderful head start at gardening but, in a climate where the threat of late frost means nothing gets planted before the last weekend of May, this is definitely strange. So, I’m going with the idea that, no matter what my observations say, Spring is coming slowly as it always does.
There are five gardens around the house. One is a 30-foot stretch along the south side, filled wildly with Bee Balm, Centaurea Montana, several varieties of Echinacea, now-straggly azalea, and a domineering Japanese Nishiki Willow. The ground cover competes with the tall plants refusing to accept its rightful role as weed inhibitor. Two vines twist up the posts of the deck. The kiwi vine, male and female, is a belligerent grasping, annoyance but each year it wins me over with its charming leaves and minuscule flowers. I was once in a friendship like that – subtly abusive, charming, manipulative, minuscule rewards. I realized one day while hacking back the kiwi with my loppers that some relationships don’t thrive on being pruned. They do better sheared off at the roots. The other vine, a honeysuckle, is well-behaved if ailing. My heart soared last week when I saw little shots along what I thought were dead stalks. I vow not to take it for granted.
And then there’s this little red tulip. I originally planted it many years ago at the base of a central rock that had once anchored the rock garden. It was the first to bloom each year and became my firm indicator that Spring had definitely arrived. Then it disappeared for a few years only to bloom again this year – three feet away from its original site.
It’s now closer to good company. I’ve had relationships like that too, where going to ground and quietly moving away has been the better choice of trying to survive against the deadness of stone.
Gardens and relationships offer fertile spaces of practice. It’s taken me decades to learn that I don’t need to be overwhelmed by the needs of a garden. (I’m learning much slower about the tsunami-like needs of relationships.) One day, sitting smack in the middle of this 30-foot monster garden and feeling very hopeless about how to care for it, I realized that I only need to do for each plant just what it needs. Until that moment, I hadn’t realized how heavy this need to achieve, nurture, and regenerate others could be.
The teaching point of a course on trauma resiliency in the chaplaincy program was to stay a step behind the person I’m serving. Don’t lead, don’t push. One step behind and let them show you where they are. This is a lovely teaching – for a germinating Chaplain and a gardener.
I don’t have any heady books or quotes for you this week. There isn’t a Zen book that has grabbed me recently and there are a few I’m avoiding. (I am enthralled by a Trauma Resiliency text but you may not really want to know about it!) Besides, I’m just enjoying the flowers in the gardens and hopefully can give you a tour of them as they come into their own over the next few weeks. I’m also travelling this week for work and decided that I need to practice flexibility – which means letting go of pre-packaged posts and trying to be ever-present for everyone.
And that may mean a bit more spontaneity. Or not. We’ll see what opens.
PS: Barry at Ox Herding has launched a great topic on Wants & Needs for this week! Please join him in looking at this edge between wanting and needing as it meets us in every moment.