once again, resilience
the Great Book of Creation must understand that i belong in remedial class, the flock for slow learners, the ones who need the lessons over and over (and over) again. all but pounded into our thick Homo sapiens skulls.
take Resilience, the course now being offered in the great outdoors. the course that zips us through the syllabus of rise, bud, pummel, wait to see what happens.
the pressing question, the one the professor whispers in our plugged-up ears: will we surrender hope, throw in the trowel and clomp away, or will we stubbornly, insistently believe that one day the hallelujah will be ours?
let the examination begin:
perhaps your sliver of acreage, like mine, was just beginning to break the thaw. perhaps the itty-bitty wisps of green had risen all around. perhaps their flags of cobalt blue or white or even butter yellow had been hoisted. and then the april rain turned frigid cold, turned to slosh of snow. and the dang beauties, caught in the act, were flash frozen, stopped at half-mast.
and you, zipped inside your fluffy layers, you dashed outside to survey the damage. you stood there, gasping, hands over mouth to stifle cries of pain. anguish of the garden variety. all looked doomed just half a day ago. it looked like spring on ice. as if the waiters dumped the slush buckets on the way to the all-you-can-eat buffet.
but i’m just back in from my morning saunter through the beds, and i am here to tell you that while the little buds are still shivering, all but quaking on their tender stems, they have shaken off the icy bits, raised their heads again, unbent their necks, and — altogether now — they await the rising sun.
while i stand gobsmacked, in awe that they’ve not packed it up and shimmied florida way, i consider the legions of parallels in my own life plot: the heartaches i thought would never end, the friend i thought i’d never hear from again, the days and weeks and months when grief leadened my legs, my gut, my heart.
of all the lessons that unfurl in my earthy plots, the ones of rising up from heartbreak are among the most prolific. to tend a garden, to keep close watch on the rise and fall and rhythms of the earth, is to enter into the frailties and absurdities, the puzzles and conundrums for which there is no rhyme, no reason.
it is to know the sharp pang of brittle brokenness, and to slow-breathe the salve of picking up the pieces, slogging onward. finding holy breath again.
i am among the ones who need all the practice i can get. i need the muscles that a garden grows. and i don’t mean the ones that help me hoist the 20-pound sacks of mushroom compost. i mean the ones that teach me hope. and faith. over and over (and over) again.
and then, sometimes, the hallelujah comes.
i think the reason i settled in these northern parts, not far from the edge of the great lake, might have something to do with the lessons of this particular geography. the ones i clearly need over and over (and over).
what lessons have you learned from the springtime garden, the one that endures whatever crushing blows the heavens send its way?
Yes, we of little faith in those most fragile of sprouts, the ice-breaking early bloomers. Last fall, a coffin-sized section of our front yard was dug up to replace a broken sewer pipe. I salvaged old lady’s mantles and new irises and rambling strawberries before the digging started, but I had no hope for the dormant crocuses. To make matters worse, the plumbing crew left us with a huge mound of sand that somehow didn’t fit back into the hole (forget about the thin strata of topsoil and grass on our once-beach property). Needless to say, all that material was jumbled up from being pitched shovelful by shovelful across the lawn. I let this effigy mound sit out the winter, hoping some of it would sink back in before I began the daunting task of leveling it in spring.
The crocuses still came up. Through the sand. Dotting the mound. No idea how deep the bulbs are, but I’ve marked each brave little plant for moving. I couldn’t abandon them now. One even sprouted in a bucket of said sand in the dark gangway.
We humans create chaos and turmoil, from front yards to front lines, and yet Mother Nature persists in even the littlest ways.
oh, i love your metaphors of death, stark as they are, because in the end of your story there comes the hallelujah. i burst into smiles as i read and pictured the triumphant crocus bursts! emphatic punctuation, indeed. rising up from the mound. undaunted. as we aim to be, but so rarely are……
i love your replies every time. you amplify, and beautify, every time. xoxoxo thank you.
Ohhh. And now I’m smiling.
My tiny strip of garden teaches me the lesson of patience, that virtue that I constantly find missing from my always in a hurry life. Those few almost warm days we had,the ones with bright sunshine, sent me outside looking for signs of life. There were none. But slowly, every so slowly during this most unwelcome spring cold spell, I’m seeing green sprouts showing their heads, shaking in the wind, not so sure if it’s safe above ground, but courageously showing themselves. Then there’s a day or three with nothing new, frustrating waits. But again, a new green sprout of 2 shows itself. . . I know if I wait a bit longer, I’ll find lots of green, but not according to my schedule. Patience! That’s what I need!
i love the image of the gentle gardener, out inspecting, whereas a passerby might mistake our careful examinations for dawdling. for strolling without purpose. when in fact you are out practicing the lessons of patience. the ones that come so slowly and stumblingly to some of us.
As always – beautiful, beautiful….
oh, thank you, thank you….xoxox
“of all the lessons that unfurl in my earthy plots, the ones of rising up from heartbreak are among the most prolific.”
Yes. It’s this way for me as well. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve taken my heavy heart to the garden and learned a lesson or two there.
Like yours, my scilla bulbs are also in full blossom despite this wintry weather. I think they’re an even deeper blue this year, perhaps because of the cold. It occurred to me yesterday that scilla flowers are native to Siberia. Perhaps there’s a hidden resilience buried in their genetic code which helps them stand up when temperatures plummet. I don’t know, but last week when my scilla blossoms stood up again after 9.5 inches of heavy, wet snow, I, too, was gobsmacked. We have much to learn from the littlest of beings…
Your words really resonated with me today. Thank you for transcribing them and sharing them here. Sending you a garden of love and good wishes. xoxo
love that word “gobsmacked”! i wrote it just today to someone! i love the idea of resilient DNA. perhaps we should try to graft some scilla (Siberian squill) genes to our very own selves….
been reading some amazing biologists of late (for work and joy combined!), and the amazements of trees and grasses and their eco-habitats and habits endlessly bedazzle me. i was reading of one particular pine needle that, when it FEELS THE VIBRATIONS of the jaw of some chewing insect (i think a caterpillar), it emits a sappy nasty-tasting resin to make the hungry ‘pillar slither away…..your comment about scilla DNA made me leap to that tucked-away morsel from the week….
where would we take our heavy hearts if not to the lap of the garden?
i often think of how i couldn’t live where the seasons don’t cycle—i need my surroundings to serve as reminders, over and over, of time’s passage, of all we lose and leave behind, all that comes around again. your words, here, do this too. mark time. growth. loss. and life. thank you, for it all.
those cobalt blues were crushed once again the other morning, under mounds of crushed ice. and yet, and yet, they rise again today, my little flagpoles of resilience. i was just out in the sun, planting a pot of ruffled primroses and lobelia the color of april sky. i felt the solar healing sinking deep, as my wintry bones drank up all the great star has to offer…..
i too can’t imagine a world where the seasons weren’t so boldly posted as reminders of our soulful geometries, spiraling round and up and round and up….