"It's the heart afraid of breaking
that never learns to dance
It's the dream afraid of waking
that never takes the chance
It's the one who won't be taken
who cannot seem to give
and the soul afraid of dying
that never learns to live…"
- Bette Midler
All winter long I looked out my kitchen window through the empty branches of the pear trees in our back yard to the park just beyond. The sky above its 1,371 acres of dry and brittle winter grass, was laced with the spindly black trunks and branches of the thousands of sycamore, maple, oak and linden whose leaves had fallen by late November.
Day after day, in bright sunshine or lowering clouds they stood naked, uncomplaining as January buffeted them with ice and March winds howled. Day after day I watched them with joy…without concern. Why?
Because I knew that spring would come. I was absolutely certain that warmer days would call forth bud and blossom. I was confident that by May we would be taking our walks under a canopy of green again.
I have been thinking about this all morning. There have been days when certain parts of my life have felt like those trees in winter. Things that once seemed green and lush often appear, on the surface, lost, naked and vulnerable. A project put on hold, a dream cherished for so long that it seems silly to continue hoping it will come true, a schism in a once vital friendship, a body of work lost in a fire, a hurricane, a hard drive failure.
How often have I been guilty of looking at the starkly naked evidence of loss and forgotten the law of spring. How often have I, in looking back at the lushness of a summer season, forgotten to welcome autumn…and winter.
In Ecclesiastes it says, "To everything there is a season and a time to every purpose under heaven…a time to plant and a time to reap…a time to break down and a time to build up…a time to weep and a time to laugh…". This gives me great peace. I am no longer inclined to think that when I am in a weeping season that I have done something wrong, or, more likely, not done something I should have done, or thought…or prayed.
When I am most certain that my life is not defined by, or limited to, this chapter…this chronological timeline between birth and death…and I am least afraid of "dying," I am most willing to live my life fearlessly, and with courage. When I am absolutely sure that no matter how much I lose I can never be deprived of my right to give, I am most generous. Only by opening my hand and letting go, am I best positioned for accepting something new.
All winter long I lingered over the winter view from my kitchen window. It was as if we had an apartment in Paris overlooking Versailles. With the leaves off the trees between our house and Art Hill, I could see the museum perched on her pedestal in the park. At night she was luminous in the golden glow of twilight. Through the night her palatial lights cast an old world elegance on our neighborhood. In the lush months of spring and summer it is difficult to see her through the tall canopy of leaves between my kitchen window and where she stands.
It has often been in the bleakness of winter-like seasons in my life that I have learned the most about myself…I discover a resiliency, courage, patience I didn't remember I had. And I learn so much about those around me. It is when the winds of distain howl most loudly that I am most aware of the stillness of a friend's kindness.
I have learned to love winter, not just as a prelude to an anticipated spring, but because it is often in the midst of winter that I am able to see things that are not as visible when all the world is lush and green and bursting with color, fragrance, and harmony.
"...When the night has been too lonely
and the road has been too long
and you think that love is only
for the lucky and the strong
Just remember in the winter
far beneath the bitter snows
lies the seed
that with the sun's love
in the spring
becomes the rose."
On to Spring…