March in Southern Oregon brings us a smorgasbord of weather. Snow, rain, hail, sun and wind vie for a place in the line-up of days. I’m a gardener. I know to plant seeds in little pots and get the little plants growing indoors. Soon, the sun will win out. I want my plants to grow while the air is still cool.
As I’m taking stock of my seed supply, gathered last summer, I ask myself, “am I ready for the new season?”. Have I ‘wintered’ enough? Have the kernels of fresh energy gathered themselves inside me? I’ve been dreaming of long stretches on the summer trail. I take stock of what my body can do.
Dreaming comes easy. Pandemic uncertainties, doubts in my body’s strength, questions of ‘why do it’, and the slow, but insidious developing hallmarks of aging, weigh on my wish to make my dream a reality.
I’ve used winter for hibernating, writing story, meditating, and exploring the meaning of things. I’ve stayed active snowshoeing and skiing, enjoying winter’s wonderland. I’ve found wonder, gratefulness and deep enjoyment in living in this place. I’ve felt relieved that the political world has swung toward sanity and the news has become reports of getting important things done, not embarrassing conspiracy theories. The days are lengthening. Still, I’m not champing at the bit to get out of isolation. I’m not eager to walk all day carrying a pack. I sense a heaviness, an undercurrent of sadness in the world we’re carrying forward. So many deaths, so much disparity in income, so much racial tension. As spring approaches, vaccinations ramp up, relief checks are mailed. “Help is on the way”, Biden says. But is it?
Staring down the Worst
Katherine May, in her book, “Wintering, the power of rest and retreat in difficult times” (Nov 2020), says: “[Since childhood] we are taught to ignore sadness, to stuff it down into our satchels and pretend it isn’t there. As adults, we often have to learn to hear the clarity of its call. That is wintering. It is the active acceptance of sadness. It is the practice of allowing ourselves to feel it as a need. It is the courage to stare down the worst parts of our experience and to commit to healing them the best we can. Wintering is a moment of intuition, our true needs felt keenly as a knife.”
When All will NOT be Well
This year’s transition into the new season is showing me contrasts: daffodils in the snow, new life in the vernal pools; and yet, the ground is too dry. The season of fresh growth bursting into life will be short. The sun will dry out the earth announcing another fire season.
I won’t get lulled into the hope that “all will be well”. I’m staring down the worst of last year’s experience in my garden. The growing season for the cool-loving plants is getting shorter. I now have shade cloth waiting for most of my garden beds. My life experience tells me we’re entering a (short) spring season, politically speaking; the drought season will follow the first 100 days of Biden being in office. The filibusters, the competition among powers, will take over and destroy a growing climate of getting novel, forward-thinking legislation done. Corporations are the shade cloths of the political garden. They will tackle climate change, as long as they can make it profitable. The sad thing in our world is that profit rules.
Growth is not Linear
Another 4 years and only 100 days of effective governing. Like the incoming spring bursts with fresh growth, economic growth is palpable as well. But the erratic weather patterns across the country, both climatic and political, are the heralds of power gone awry. Growth is no longer linear. As the forces of government battle each other, growth is a start-and-stop movement - with much time spent in dormancy -.
Again Katherine May reflects my sentiment when she says: “We are in the habit of imagining our lives to be linear, a long march from birth to death in which we mass our powers, only to surrender them again, all the while slowly losing our youthful beauty. This is a brutal untruth. Life meanders like a path through the woods. We have seasons when we flourish and seasons when the leaves fall from us, revealing our bare bones. Given time, they grow again.”
It makes me sad to realize a straight line out of poverty, homelessness or disparity, toward equality, compassion and equal distribution, won’t happen. The path meanders, makes a loop, or presents an insurmountable cliff. Nature will always be my teacher. I will hike a long trail this summer; I will make peace with the stops-and-starts of the seasons.
My aging isn’t linear. When the sun warms me and the wild winds of spring blow through my hair, a youthful bounce energizes my step. I will be ready for another lap around the season’s track.