My back yard got pretty ugly this past winter. Fallen and partially decaying leaves created a mess on my patio and pool deck, making me think twice about going outside. The pool, sprinkled with leaves and pine tree needles, went from a sparkling shade of blue to a pale shade of pond green. With the lack of sunshine added to this sad picture, I constantly found excuses to stay indoors to avoid yard work.
An easier and happier activity was a visit to one of my favorite wineries in Napa Valley, California, on the cusp of winter and spring. This winery has a charming terraced garden that overlooks a meadow and offers views of the valley below, but I was struck by how bare and brown the garden appeared. Trees and plants had been cut back, leaving gapes in the lush screens between the garden’s levels. New growth was just starting to peek out from the earth, leaving dirt and woodchips fully exposed.
The lack of groundcover allowed me to study a particular garden statue from top to bottom. This statue of a little girl wearing a dress and a hat captures the simple pleasure that comes from smelling the fragrance of a flower. The girl is smiling sweetly, and her eyes are closed. She is oblivious to anything and anyone else in the garden for that moment that she is enjoying the scent of the flower in her hand. This little girl is living in the moment, taking time to smell the roses.
When I went back to this winery a few weeks later, spring was in full bloom. The garden was no longer sparse; green leaves and colorful flowers hid the dirt and woodchips. The little girl was now an island in a sea of green, visible only from the waist up.
Recently it occurred to me that my life has been cut back and pared down. While my kids were in college, I could still parent them by exercising some supervision over their lives and by taking care of them financially. Now that both of my kids have graduated, they don’t need or want my supervision anymore, and they are financially independent. I’m entering a winter season of my life, and I am an island in a sea of brown dirt and woodchips.
People think of winter as a time of inactivity and rest, but it’s really a time for work and growth that happens deep down, away from the view of others. Raising successful, independent adults sounds like something to celebrate, and I do, but if raising my kids is my greatest accomplishment to date, will everything that follows pale in comparison? I hope not.
It’s time to cultivate the next version of myself, time to study the foundations of my life and to choose what things I want the next season to yield. Like cleaning up my back yard in winter, this project probably will get messy at times, not to mention a little scary, but I’m motivated. With visions of lush greenery, fragrant flowers, and a girl who takes time to smell the roses, I begin the work of winter.
©Living off Island, Writing Wahine, 2016.