After all the go-go goings that have defined this long season of Pentecost, I am relishing moments of holy leisure today, the guilt-free sort that always arrive on wings of winter chill.
I regard as no small miracle the difference a few days can make to one’s priorities and state of mind. Why all autumn long, prior to knowing that there was such a thing as an “ARCTIC BLAST” (“AB”), I’ve been cocooned in an Indian Summer insouciance, preparing the garden for future summers rather than getting ready for the certain reality of a winter that — let’s face it — could have happened anytime.
I put off decision-making on how best to winterize our fountain — whether to store it or keep it operating with a heater — in favor of reworking and expanding large sections of the garden. Rather than taking time to ensure I had paper tape to protect trees most susceptible to sun scald, I instead focused on editing plant material — adding, and relocating plants within my garden… passing along other plants that needed more spacious digs.
So to read how AB ended up catching me off guard could surprise no one… but maybe myself. The day after AB arrived, the fountain was still operating…without its needed heater. Tree trunks of those normally wrapped were still bare. And the most prolific tomato plant I’ve ever been privileged to nurture was loaded with hundreds of little green tomatoes… just waiting for someone to take note… and pick, pick, pick.
The gardener shapes the garden and vice versa, but both are shaped by seasonal changes. Take this winter freeze, for instance. Before this, I’d never considered how effective winter can be at making things happen. When a freeze means do or die, it’s time to do. Which in my garden meant that the fountain heater finally got installed. The trees got taped. And a few hours before temperatures dived below thirty-two degrees, my husband and I picked too-many-to-count little green tomatoes, fifty of which have already ripened.
Winter makes things happen in other ways, too, though often, in less perceptible ways. In an out of the garden, new growth occurs below the surface of life; as roots develop for spring growth within the cold, dark soil, something analogous goes on in the life of this gardener, too, as I’m snuggled into some warm and light-infused spot of my lovely home. Like no other season of the year, winter invites me to settle in and get still, it offers me creative space to catch my breath, to rest my tired body and recharge my spirit, to ponder life and my response to life, often with the aid of a good novel or fine film in front of me.
It also gives me time to ponder future projects I may one day undertake. Last January, my bathroom remodel was the stuff of wintertime day dreams. I devoted time to study of the space. I took measurements. I made lists of features that I’d like to have in my new bathroom. I considered the ‘before’ and ‘after’ photos of many remodeled bathrooms that appealed to me. I probably overdosed on remodeled bathrooms designed by Sarah Richardson. But only after pondering all of my wishes and restraints for a very long time did I begin to sketch out possible floor plans. It took weeks to come up with one I was ready to develop further, to invest time needed to selecting materials and fixtures. Marble tile for the floor. Ceramic for the tile wainscoting. Shimmery glass mosaics for the upper half of the shower. Calcutta Gold Quartzite for the countertop. A large vessel tub. Pendant lights.
Buy why bother with words when I can show you the ‘before’ and ‘after’ so easily with photos?
And a few more, for good measure.
Most see it as an amazing transformation. But then, how could it be otherwise? It’s always seems to be a step in the right direction wherever light illumines space and whenever narrow views grow to be more opened. What’s true for room design holds true for life in the garden and, most importantly, the life of this gardener, too.
Though, sometimes, I do wonder at all the changes that have taken place within me over the span of my adult life. Changes in attitude. Perspective. Philosophy. Changes that have occurred in my spiritual life and in religious affiliation. My choice in films and novels. My preference in how I furnish my home and dress myself. My taste in food. How I once loved eating a McDonald’s cheeseburger…
Why, even the way I perceive myself has changed. Six years ago, I would never have considered calling myself a gardener, though I did garden a fair amount. So who can say how and when it happened,… I only know that today, I refer to myself as a gardener. And that life as a gardener shapes my view of the world.
These inward personal changes cannot be documented with the ease of ‘before’ and ‘after’ photos, though they live within me nevertheless…which reminds me that “To pray is to change.” Like all the other changes that have slowly shaped my present identity, I cannot pinpoint where I first read…and absorbed…these words. I only know that the saying feels true to my experience.
My actions shape my prayers and my prayers, in turn, shape my actions… until the two blur to become one… and my prayer becomes my action.
In other words, as I often like to say, my life is my prayer. But unlike Douglas V. Steer, I do not know whether I believe that my prayer… or my life… can really tip the cosmic balance (p. 69 of Dimensions of Prayer) of what will occur without either my prayers or my life.
But who can say what impact our words or deeds might have on the lives of others?
Who can say whether or not that maybe we all tip the balance a little every day?
I only know that, today, I’ve settled into sweater weather. And that at certain times in my life, I have felt the warmth of prayers spoken on my behalf as much as I do the warmth of this coral-colored, cotton sweater that, today, covers my arms and heart.
Sweater weather! How grateful I am to be within your seasonal embrace.