Sunday, April 19, 2015

How Much Space Does It Take to Grow Joy?

April 19, 2015

Dear Friends,

When T.S. Elliott wrote, “April is the cruelest month,” he was not making a weather report. A spring storm this week brought the line to mind, however. 

There has been snow with small winds—small, mean, thin winds that sneak cold fingers into the flower beds. Last night (again) I moved seedlings onto the patio and covered them, then lowered the sun screen to give some additional protection against the wind. I haven’t uncovered them yet this morning.  Am thinking that after I have finished this conversation with you, I’ll check the weather forecast. It may be necessary to move them into the house and set up temporary garden quarters on the kitchen table. 

Dealing with April requires living with messy alternatives at times.  If you come for coffee (tea?) this week, we will likely sit and talk at the dining room table. I have not altered my on-going practice of sitting with friends in the kitchen. However, in April the kitchen table is often pre-empted as an emergency shelter for seedlings. Elliott was accurate. April often demonstrates a callous disregard of both the young and the old and their needs for light and warmth.

Thinking about diminishment in April seems oddly incongruent. New life is struggling to become established, and shows everywhere despite April’s unpredictable acts of careless indifference. This is a time of new—and more—life. Still, I have been continuing to think this week about spring in a time of diminishment.  

My ability to participate in April garden life is clearly diminished. The impact of this diminishment is not poverty of experience, however, because, in part, I live in a community of faith-family people who share their resources with me. 

This week I experienced an additional small but spectacular epiphany. Tending a flat of seedlings can hold as much joy and shared emergent life as I experienced in my former large garden bounded by its old rock wall.

The power of diminishment to produce emotional poverty is a reality. The degree to which this power functions as a reality in my life, however, depends upon my understanding that reduction in scale and volume does not produce reduction in significance unless I choose for this to happen.

I remember the spring in my old garden that a large bed of tall yellow iris first bloomed. I had not grown such “tall fellows” before, and I had never seen iris whose color had that glorious yellow “look-at-me” brilliance. But this morning, while I remember them, space in my life for the experience of yellow iris has diminished and, in reality, has disappeared. 

Today, however, in the seedlings I am protecting on the back patio is a new hybrid salvia bred to thrive under adverse growing conditions. The adventure that lies ahead for me and the salvia is the challenge of the strip of ground between the walk and the garage wall (the garden catalogue labeled this spot the inferno strip). 

I’ve never grown this plant before. And when it blooms, I will know again something like I experienced that yellow-iris-spring.

The ability and willingness to celebrate life in all its forms is the wealth that holds emotional poverty at bay when diminishment occurs. I am grateful that there are many things in addition to tall yellow iris that bring joy to my heart.

Cherish the small things. They too carry life and hope.

See you next week. 



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