Lately I am of two minds regarding the passage of time. In one, I stare out of my bedroom window in the early morning at tiny junipers and Japanese maples, and yearn for additional seasons of growth and maturity to flesh out designs still in their infancy. Not a minute later however I have turned from my window and caught my reflection in the mirror, realizing that that which enriches the garden is robbing me blind. How can early morning light be so kind to one and so cruel to the other?
Such thoughts are better saved for late night poetry-fests with others who find themselves in similar circumstances – where the wine is flowing and no one is noticing the crow’s feet much less the junipers – but the paradox is making me smile this morning…and reflect. For as much as I would slow time on one hand, I would speed it up on the other.
My children are of course anxious for the months, the years, to pass – just as I was, just as we all were. You would think that, with millions of years of evolution under our belts, we’d have gifted a bit of DNA-imprinted wisdom to the next generation, vis-à-vis “don’t be in such a hurry my darlings;” but alas, such a concept is better taught by Madame Mortgage and Monsieur Knee Replacement Surgery and all of their demonic teaching aids.
So…to embrace the process when we eventually come head to head with it – that is the challenge. And without fail I find I am at my most receptive when wholly present in the world outside the front door. Whether your garden is in its early stages, or fully mature, there is always room for something new, something to renew your sense of excitement at the passing of the seasons. If you don’t garden, just observing the natural world can impart a great sense of peace when you’re struggling with bigger issues of life, the universe, the mirror, and everything – as to one degree or another, we all must (particularly those of us with winter birthdays).
One would assume that the best time to make such observations would be in the spring and summer when the landscape exudes light, youth and energy; but in my opinion, there is overmuch visual and mental stimulation in a spring setting to delve too deeply into such matters. What is the point of analyzing the question of beauty if the landscape is only going to hit you over the head with the answer?
Instead, the winter scene breathes quietly in gentle rhythms and subdued colors. Here we view the remains of what has come before and smile in the certain knowledge that it will all come again, just as it has for millennia. Setting our own short life span against such a backdrop is subtly empowering when life seems grim or we are feeling old and tired. After all, 45, 70 or 85 winters is nothing to a world that has seen thousands. We are babies in comparison.
In the face of shorter days and a quieted landscape, the little pleasures that surprise me do so with startling power. The pop of miscanthus heads backlit by winter sun, the resiliency of tiny sedums coated by a hoarfrost, the artistry of water frozen into sheets of glass on the top of a rain barrel. Each one catches me unaware, and I am enchanted for a moment – quite silly in my excitement some days – as I was last week upon finding a huge cache of oyster mushrooms on a decaying stump.
Renewal! Rebirth! Life from death. This is what winter lays gently at our feet – beauty in an ever-aging landscape.
Seeing that beauty in my own ever-aging landscape is slightly more challenging as the years go by, but as a gardener my face is often obscured by a generous layer of dirt anyway. It’s cheaper than Botox and it comes with a bonus gift: Mental, visual and emotional connection to the natural world – and the guarantee that I’ll always be the youngest in that particular room.