The weatherman is talking about the next cold front that is headed for my beloved Oklahoma. Two doors down from me are the remains of a once six foot tall snow man. His baseball cap lies on the ground beside him and his carrot nose is drooping. It is winter now and yet, I am writing about spring. I am replaying all the springs, all the renewals I can remember.
For most people, the New Year, January 1st, is the start of newness, of days not yet filled on the calendar. It is a time of resting, quiet evenings at home, and letting the spirit slow down and wait. This winter, it is different for me. It will be over by the time you read this; the seedlings open and reaching for the springtime sun. The sense of anticipation, of muscles longing for lakeside walks, for snow cones and going barefoot however, is awake in me today.
Last spring, I was diagnosed with breast cancer and all the gifts of the season were shelved. All my energy and faith and hope and determination were funneled into surviving. The onset of chemo brought a terrible inability to read, write, even to walk my dog the mile or two he and I had both come to love. Winter set in my spirit and my body and I became aware of the process of dormancy and hibernation awaiting the renewal of spring, indeed, of life itself. I felt my strength center and become concentrated toward healing -- toward spring when my awakening could begin. Now, in the midst of snow and cold, I watch the buds of my soul begin to fill out. Each morning, I pass my flower bed on the way to the car. In winters past, I have hated the barrenness, the gray leaves, and stark branches. Today, they are beyond beauty. My Russian Sage is a mass of gnarled slender tips, but I see in my heart the foggy silver foliage and the tiny lavender buds. My miniature rose reaches bare branches to the cool winter sun; together we wait. My sons dug a flower bed and border around the back fence last spring. They planted ferns and hostas for the shade and riotous periwinkles for the sun. They bought a package of assorted wildflowers and scattered then freely among the other plants. Each week brought a new seedling and the wait until it could be named. They bordered it with a variegated vinca and put in a bird feeder and a white birdbath not too far away from a wooden bench. Windchimes sang to me from the branches of an old redbud. Throughout spring and summer, I watched the plants, grow, bloom, and some of them die. I sat on my bench tasting the sun on my face and taking pictures of the blooms. The camera became my pen and the garden my books. Today, my dog and I walked the fence of the backyard, notebook in hand, considering when to dig the earth -- when to replace the annual blooming plants. We noted the dusty miller still waving its silver hair and spreading into the still green and growing vinca. The hollyhock next to the garage has bowed its head for its own winter prayer -- the ferns now nestle under a blanket of red, yellow, and brown leaves. And so, this is winter...small snowy patches banking the trees and little groupings of vinca to carry on the seasons' song. And so, too, is this spring! My spirit stretching and yawning and seeing in my mind's eye all the songs that the earth will sing. I will plant native grasses this year to honor my roots and to see the spiny resistance to death. I will plant more roses and more vinca. I will plant evergreens that even in winter's harshest days, spring will live. I will hang more windchimes because this is music that only the spirit can sing. Because even when spring passes, all her days of warmth are replayed in the wind. I will plant so that spring's awakening will always be a part of my days. I will plant because hope is the finest gift of the spirit and the awakening of the heart.
Artwork "Gift of Life" by Manfred Muller
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