Most evenings find me in the garden, plucking blooms, pulling weeds and pruning the deadheads. Three growing girls inside, full of dreams and adolescent invincibility, wrestling with algebra, chemistry and german assignments; two tiny boys outside, pulling tomatoes off the vine and chasing fireflies through the tall, overgrown grass. And as nature once again calls me into her intimate spaces, she teaches me about life and about truth and about myself.
Last week, my grandmother quietly took her final stroll into the great beyond, and that evening as I sat with my grief in the garden, I found all of the colors of sorrow and joy growing side by side. For so is life.
Time relentlessly and unapologetically rolls one generation into the next without a moment of silence or even a wayward tear. In the macro view of humanity, it was just yesterday that my grandmother pulled blueberries from the bush, preparing tomorrow's pancakes for her own two little boys. She taught me the secrets of the garden: the peace buried in the soil, the promise hidden the seed, the patience learned in the bloom. But on this evening, I was thinking about the grace found in the pruning.
People like to hold on to things. We hold on to what is familiar, even when it no longer serves us good. We hold on to love that has long ago dissolved and died, because the reality of today's loss feels heavier than the weight of yesterday's memories, even though the choice holds us captive and paralyzed. At least it delivers the illusion of home. We hold on to possessions, because we have assigned to them the value and tangibility of the more precious things that have slipped through our fingers. Most of all, we hold on to control; this belief that we can create safety in life, if only we make all the right choices, if only we do enough, if only we are enough.
But despite our best efforts, still sorrow and joy grow side by side. And it is only when we begin to let go that we can fully embrace both. We must let go of our fears of both yesterday and tomorrow, let go of our need for perfection and predictability, let go of the things that clutter our hearts and fill our hands.
As I pluck dead blooms from their mother-plant, I notice the young buds yet beginning to open. The garden can only expand and grow when the expired flowers and wilted branches are pruned out. Likewise, only hopeful hearts and open hands can receive the fullness that lies within today. Faithful nature teaches me that life has seasons: times for chaos and times for stillness, times to give and times to receive, times for sadness and times for celebration. And they seem to grow side by side, bursting to color and likewise fading, withering within the same sacred space, this sacred breath. Herein is the truth that we must both receive and release. For so is life.
And so my grandmother awakens on a distant shore and I awaken to another bustling day of the motherlife and the womanlife, the worklife and the homelife. I will carpool and I will clean, I will cook and I will do that career thing. I will give and I will take, I will teach and I will learn.
And as twilight settles across this mountain, I will wander out to the garden. I will pluck blooms and pull weeds and prune deadheads. And I will let go, and let go, and let go.
For so is life.
about the writer.
“Words are only postage stamps delivering the object for you to unwrap” (George Bernard Shaw)