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How often will an April freeze scorch a lilac shrub of its regal display? Or brown a full-blown magnolia tree, reducing it to widow’s weeds? Or blister-winds knife blossoms from apple trees and pastiche the ground with snowy whiteness? Or drenching rains wash away tender roots of newly planted annuals? Such losses burn, leave a sour taste.

Such feelings glimmer beneath the opening lines of T. S. Eliot’s elegy, The Waste Land (1922): “April is the cruelest month, breeding/Lilacs out of the dead land mixing/ Memory and desire, stirring/Dull roots with spring rain.”

It’s all about yearning, about holding onto glimpses of Beauty, whether experienced in nature, in loved ones, or in pets. Within these richly nuanced moments, we catch our breath, perhaps pick up pen or watercolor brush and set to work. For students of such industry, a trail emerges that evidences the expression of unstoppable Life, despite continuous setbacks, even death. The challenge is to begin, yet again, hopefully wiser until the next in-breaking of Beauty that stirs our roots with spring rain.

 

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It was happening again—outside my study window.

Like hard hats, nubs tipped the branches of my old lilac bush, caught up in the play of trickster winds. Over the winter months, the nubs appeared dormant, as if pondering their eventual burgeoning. Overcast skies, drenching rains, and bone-chilling temperatures imprisoned them in darkness.

But not so this morning—There was a change: the swollen nubs were splitting apart; beneath the shriveled skins glimmered a new green, and with more growth still to come, regal purple blossoms to delight the senses.

It seems that many life forms originate within buds. Once their protective function is served, they split apart and wither. For a time, greening plants, shrubs, and trees flourish, then begin to lose color, fade, then produce buds for the next season. The same holds true for the offspring of humans and animals.

In a related sense, I believe that the aging body also functions like a bud. When life’s energies and responsibilities begin to wane, the spirit seeks an increasing solitude within the womblike darkness of the body: therein, to remember, to pray, to forgive, to give thanks, and to embrace the Unknown.

This continues to be my experience—as I await my transition, whenever, however…

 

 

 

“It’s only winterbite,” my gardener friend assured me, handing me several mottled leaves from the Christmas Hollys we’d planted last spring in my side yard. Her windblown cheeks, her bulky sweatshirts and jeans, smudged from previous work, bespoke her authority tending gardens. She brightened and leaned over. “See these buds beneath other stressed leaves? Once the earth warms up, they’ll push them off and form new leaves.”

Like the Christmas Hollys, I, too, suffer from winterbite. So weary of wearing long underwear and multiple layers of heavy clothing, so bone-chilled by arctic winds, so leery of inaccurate weather forecasts, so sun-deprived, so tired of in-house walks.

Like everyone, I yearn for the warming sun to quicken my own budding with spring’s pastels: pinks, raspberry, peach, rose …

 

 

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