“To everything there is a season.” Ecclesiastes 3:1
A winter storm can arrive just like an unwelcome house guest by barging in, dropping bags in the front hall and making itself right at home. The temperatures can plummet overnight, and by morning nothing remains the same. Pipes have burst, tree limbs are broken, and it appears that your garden has died. There may be a dusting of snow to hide the destruction, but eventually it will melt and reveal what winter has brought you, a tempest of despair. The circumstances in our lives can change just as suddenly. A tragic accident, the end of a relationship or career, or a medical diagnosis we never wanted can arrive with no warning at all. Our hearts break, we lose our bearing, and nothing seems to make sense anymore. We wake up to a new reality.
Gardeners have a strategy for dealing with winter. When storms roll in, we are ready for them. We have been watching the signs in nature for months. We do all we can to prepare and protect our garden and then retreat indoors and wait. On long winter days, we peer out of the window, hoping to catch a glimpse of our sleeping garden under its frozen blanket. Yes, we might venture out in the cold to shake the limbs of a beloved young tree that is bending from the weight of ice, or fret about some additional measure we that might have been taken before the cold front marched in, but gardeners release the outcome of nature’s fury. We have faith that everything will be okay.
In truth, it is more than faith; it’s an honest belief. We have a complete knowing that sustains us through the winter. Sometimes we just have to wait it out. Sometimes, we can only dream about our future garden. We never doubt that the sunny days will return again. I have never met a gardener that did not know that the spring would come. There has never been a winter so tortuous and long that it prevented spring. You cannot speed it up, and you cannot predict the exact date it will arrive, but you can be certain of one thing: the spring always comes.
“Though an old man, I am but a young gardener.” Thomas Jefferson
You’ve Been Grounded
Adversity does not build character; adversity reveals our true nature. Challenging times expose our core beliefs. They expose the foundation our personality is built upon. Tough times reveal the fundamental ideas that define our way of understanding the world. Many rely on their faith in times of hardship, but what is faith? If faith is a belief in the unseen, then what do you stand on when your whole world seems to be crumbling around you? You must stand upon what you know. Knowing is entirely different than faith. You do not believe the sun will rise tomorrow, you know that it will. You do not have faith that the seasons will change; you know that they will. Perhaps the only secure place to stand upon when your life is in complete disarray is firmly planted upon your Mother Earth.
Most of us are just flying along through our lives passing from one experience to another, until something big stops us right in our tracks. We might use phrases like, “It knocked my legs right out from under me,” or, “I was brought to my knees.”All of a sudden, everything seems to have changed. You may be experiencing one of those times right now. The difficulties you are facing might seem insurmountable. When we are challenged we must reconnect with what is our own personal truth. Facing that truth can be heartbreaking, but it can also be the opening to allow our highest nature to express itself. It’s been said that when an egg cracks on the outside it is broken, but when it cracks from the inside something new is being born. Perhaps this is the purpose of heartbreak. When our heart is broken it creates an entry point for compassion to begin to pour forth and through us. It then becomes our work to allow this tenderness to flow out into the world and contribute to our collective healing.
Natural disasters like floods and fires can destroy what we have become accustomed to, but also bring about the birth of something completely new. There are seeds that will not germinate without exposure to great extremes. The giant redwoods and great sequoia are majestic symbols of strength and beauty, towering hundreds of feet tall. They can grow up to fifty feet in diameter and live for hundreds of years, but they cannot reproduce without a forest fire. Their seeds sleep silently inside mature cones until the extreme heat awakens them and the seeds are released. These magnificent trees rely on episodic fires for their very survival. The burnt remains and ash on the forest floor provide the optimal planting bed for the seeds to germinate and begin their journey to towering new heights. The forest fire has cleared space and increased the amount of sunlight available for a new tree to grow. Sometimes we also have to walk through the fire and navigate the flood to find our own new growth.
“Become totally empty. Let your heart be at peace, amidst the rush of worldly comings and going, observe how endings become beginnings. Things flourish, each by each, only to return to the source. To return to the root is to find peace.” Lao Tzu
It may seem odd to begin our journey in the season of winter, but this is the season of the big wake up call. It’s the birthing of our authentic self awareness. It is a call that must be answered because it will refuse to be ignored. For many, myself included, it comes at an early age. Others may experience smooth sailing until later in life. The winter of discontent is the first season of personal examination, a time of reflection, sharp perceptions and discernment. Individuals from cultures all over the world will seek comfort during this season with prayer and meditation. I find it significant that many will spend much of this time kneeling, sitting or laying prostrate, literally making contact with the earth. Whenever this season arrives, wherever you might be, you will find that you’ve been grounded.
“The strongest oak of the forest is not one that is protected from the storm and hidden from the sun. It’s the one that stands in the open where it is compelled to struggle for its existence against the winds, the rain and the scorching sun.” Napoleon Hill
remember, goodness grows,