Sunday, February 27, 2011

Round and Round and Round and Round

Sometimes you’re happy, sometimes you’re sad,
But that doesn't matter at all
Take it from me, there's still gonna be
A summer, a winter, a spring and a fall.
The planet spins, and the world goes 'round
And 'round and 'round and 'round and 'round
(Apologies to the lyricist for scrambling the verses.)

Circles. All of life is made of circles and cycles. In this country, of course, we celebrate the beginning of a new year--a new circle--on January first. My soul year, though, begins with Lent, which coincides more closely with the garden year. Since I bought this house and its old neglected gardens, (I first saw it on Ash Wednesday and moved in on Palm Sunday), I began to pay attention to my own cycles. It is this time of year when I look inside myself and gather energy for whatever is coming; when I begin preparing with the garden for a return to life. I have tried to be a summer person; but it is spring when it is all happening; when my soul and the garden are full of excitement at what is happening now, with hope for what is coming next, and with sure knowledge that there is something to be learned. The garden is my teacher.

This year Lent is late; Ash Wednesday is still a week and a half away--later than it has been since I began learning from the garden. But the garden isn't waiting. And neither am I. Just as Lent doesn’t explode onto the scene with the razzle-dazzle of the resurrection, we have to wait for spring and summer for the garden to burst into the fullness of its bloom and potential. Lent, in the garden and in the soul, sneaks in quietly; begging to be observed and reflected upon, but with patient introspection. These are teasing weeks: cold then warm then cold again; still more darkness than light. So some days, when I feel my winter inwardness ready to bust out, and other days when I turn back, I don't despair. Easter is not here yet. But there is plenty happening.

In the garden my Lenten Rose is Crazy With Bloom. I count twenty buds and blooms this weekend, compared to four last week and two last year, and none the year before that. I love the Lenten Rose. It is a plant I was not familiar with until I began my love affair with the garden and started observant walking in my neighborhood. Its foliage remains green through all the seasons, and it blooms during Lent. The dusty deep purple then green then yellow flowers are not a showy burst of color, and they hide under the leaves; but like Lent, it is there for those who are looking for subtle change, for a slow coming out from winter, for the first small sign of resurrection.

Evidence of spring can be seen everywhere. Daffodils and camellias are blooming. Cherry trees in the Village appear this week and light up the gray skies. (Well, the skies haven't been gray much, but they need to be. Rain is in short supply.) The more reticent trees have just a hint of color. But not all the evidence can be appreciated with a drive-by. It is much too subtle. The vinca minor ground cover I planted two years ago has its first periwinkle bloom; I don't notice until I walk up close. The pink feathers of the lorapetalum have opened. The dogwood has buds, and the tight green and purple hydrangea buds of last week are opening into green. The weeping Japanese maple I planted last year has new green branches and tiny pink leaf buds. The sea oats and guara are sprouting from the ground, but I have to peer closely to see it. And, when I brush aside the leaf mulch, I discover purple sprouts of the bleeding heart. But it's not time for everything. There is no sign of the Purple Heart, the hostas, or the peony. I claw through the mulch and check the banana tree. Nothing. I cover it back up. It is still February.

I planned for a Lenten practice this year, but I haven't waited for the liturgical year Lent to begin. I am following my own cycle. I rise early and sit on the deck with my coffee. A cardinal sits in a nearby branch this week and sings for a mate. And each morning a hawk, glides from tree tops across the street into the trees at the back of my yard. I watch it sitting up there. A few minutes later it flies back to the across-the-road trees with building materials its mouth. On Friday it is accompanied by another hawk--its mate perhaps?--and they both return bearing twigs. Preparing. We are all preparing for what comes next.

I have not enjoyed so much the cycle of the box elder bug. They came inside this year, and I have read more than I ever needed to know about the bug's life. They are completely harmless: they do not bite or carry disease, they do not harm plants or eat buildings. They come inside to get out of the cold, and when it gets warm they gravitate to warm places (like my southern exposure, upstairs window) trying to get outside. Though the literature says they do not reproduce inside, and they only live for a few days, it leaves me puzzled as to why they continued to inhabit my window all winter. The literature doesn’t say this, but they are stupid--or maybe just sluggish. They can fly, but they don't; they just let me have my way with them. I probably could open the window and let them escape--since that's what they want; but instead I swat their short lives even shorter and fill the waste basket with their tiny carcasses. At least they are not the ladybugs that congregate in my mother’s sunny windows; they would be hard to kill, what with being so cute and their children burning and all. This week they are all but gone in the house, but hatching--and flying--outside. I can’t like them, but what are they hurting.

Circles and cycles. They don't always follow a lateral line. Take the Crazy With Bloom Lenten Rose. It is in an upward spiral. As are several of the plants I have put in the ground that are strengthening as they become established. Older plants, though, are spiraling downward as they come to the end of their lives. Bulbs planted in the sun, become shaded as other plants grow over them, and experience a failure to bloom. (I have one of those random remembrances this morning of practicing lateral spirals in the long rectangular Palmer Method penmanship books. Do students still learn penmanship? Obviously not. Cursive writing has become a lost art.) I have experienced all the spirals. I think I am in an upward one now. It is opened-ended; I'm not sure where it is headed; or if there is even a destination in our spirals. But upward feels good.

I planted two Euphorbia in one of the first gardens I renovated. I love the name. One of the evergreen plants is doing very well and the other--only two feet away but with just a bit less sunlight--has struggled in a downward spiral. I transplant it this week to a sunnier spot. Sometimes we must transplant ourselves. What might have worked for a while, or might work for someone else, is not so much what we come to need. Lent and early spring are time to pay attention to that. We can see better when there is not so much "noise." Like in the garden, I watch and listen more intensely for what is coming for myself. What needs to be transplanted; what needs to be replaced. I begin opening up to possibility. As I wait for the warmth and the light to come to stay and for the more frantic pace of planting, weeding, and watering to begin, I prepare the garden and myself for another season of growth. We are getting ready, my bloom and I.

May Sarton said, "In the garden the door is always open in to the holy--growth, birth, death. Every flower holds the whole mystery in its short cycle..." Sometimes our soul circles are longer than the garden cycles; some are not contained in a single year, and that makes them easy to overlook. If it has worked for several years, why is it suddenly not working? The truth is, it's not sudden, it just takes time coming to light. More than at any other season, I feel most like a participant in the divine act of creation this time of year. I embrace life more fully as I tune into my cycles. I choose what I want to cut away and what I want to nurture. I dig deep into the soil, enriching it to make it fertile to sustain whatever I decide to plant. I listen, I watch, I start the work. I revel in the beauty, the mystery, and the challenge of my soul garden.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I love that Lenten Rose, I'd never heard of it before. It is beautiful. I'll have to look for it here. When I was a child I didn't pay attention to this Lenten season at all but as an adult I've come to look forward to it and find it a very natural cycle to be in. The vocabulary I learn in reading your blog is so rich: lorapetulum - going to have to look it up, rolls so well on my tongue.