Most of the deciduous trees in New England are disrobed and stripped of color when November’s end comes rolling in. Gardens should have already been put to bed properly so they can get a good winter’s sleep and be ready to flourish in the spring and summer. There have been a few years when my flowers hung their heads in dismay and eventually laid down on pillows of snow because of my negligence. I’m always amazed that come spring, in spite of my heedless care, these plants bloom and thrive yet again. It gives me hope, for albeit I’ve blundered as a parent, friend, daughter, writer, there is some kind of intrinsic wizardry and numinous love that prevails on this earth and in my life. In spite of me, in spite of you, and in spite of nature’s backhand striking us hard with hurricanes, nor’easters, and earthquakes, resplendent color comes again into our pallid earth and lives. I know it. I’ve lived over fifty years and this truth is threaded throughout my life’s experiences, in spite of tangled and knotted stitches.
Delores Whelan writes in her book, Ever Ancient Ever New, Celtic Spirituality in the 21st Century:
The journey from Samhain to the winter solstice is a path of continual sinking and letting go, of deep surrender. The days shorten; the nights get longer; the earth draws its energy deep within; death and darkness surround us. We reside in the womb or cauldron of the Goddess where gestation and transformation happen. We are deep within the giamos period, where the experience of linear time is minimized, willpower is muted, and contemplation of the ever-present form or ground of being, from which everything arises, is encouraged. Here the mode of being that is required is rest, passive attentiveness to the unconscious influences of the otherworld, together with openness to growth that is slow and unforced. This is the dream time, where the seeds of new life, new ideas, and new projects are nurtured.
Winter has arrived and my miniature yellow roses haven’t lost their heads over it, so why should I? I haven’t tended to my flowers properly, but they will adapt and will probably bloom come spring. And if they don’t survive, they will be missed and not have lived in vain. The earth and I have benefited by their beautiful presence.
But sometimes fear rises up within me in winter like no other time and I wonder if this thread of love will break and I’ll fall apart, perhaps like the flowers that do not survive winter, properly cared for or not. Roofs collapse under the weight of snow. Am I strong enough? Or is this thread strong enough? I was wondering about these things after I had lunch with a writer friend. She gets my writing, for real. She encourages me to screw up my courage to let words grow slow and unforced onto the wintery empty pages. I am fortunate to have her and a few other writers in my life who cheer me on into springtime. I said goodbye to her and was so deep in thought that when I got onto Interstate 93 going north and drove for a few miles, I suddenly thought I was going south. I was headed to Boston! So I got off the next exit to go north back to New Hampshire and after driving for a few miles, I realized I was actually going south. I had been driving in the right direction from the beginning. I had been going north like I was supposed to, but I got off and went south thinking I was going north when I was going south. Did you get that? That glass of wine at lunch had definitely worn off and it wasn’t the culprit. It was winter and I was deep in thought about my new novel and bringing to life what had been buried long ago. I ended up driving up 93 in rush hour and it took me nearly three hours to get home. It should have only taken me 40 minutes. I cranked up my music and tried to relax (and pay attention). And then there was golden warmth that spread over my hands on the steering wheel and crept up my entire being. For the drive home, the sun put on a brilliant show. It was one of those sunsets that momentarily make you feel that “God’s in his heaven-All’s right with the world.” (Browning).
So I messed up. I didn’t put my flowers to bed and rake the leaves. I went the right way thinking I was going the wrong way and then went the wrong way thinking I was going the right way. I’m in wintertime, but there are sunrises and sunsets that assure me that no matter which way I go and whatever happens, there is love. And I’m nearly certain that my roses, which are still yellow, are a very good omen.