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Spring Gardening in Winter: on the courage to slow down

Spring Gardening in Winter: on the courage to slow down

February 13th, 2012 (No Comments)

Winter has finally arrived in Pennsylvania – but, inside it is spring. Just when this wild woman has come alive with fresh vision, I am called yet again, to slow down. So much passion bursts from the seams of my changeable life, so much goodness. It is quite overwhelming!

Outside an untidy pile of rocks and spades, and a wheelbarrow half-filled with fresh gravel wait in a corner for a warm day to complete the new fire-pit wall. Inside my email list has burgeoned, overflowing with response from my renewed adventure of social networking. Like time-travelers, old friends from all over the world wait, wanting to reconnect again. My mind races ahead to several major Stonehaven hospitality events: shopping, cleaning, Valentine baking. Every mouse click threatens to topple the paper mountain on my desk – the remnants of this weekend’s Friday retreat circle with 12 special listeners in our ‘Be the Garden’ circle. Constantly I hear my novel-writing muse calling from the deep, drawing my loving attention. And – delightful surprise – just when I thought my psychotherapy practice was truly winding down, a handful of former clients show up this week asking for my listening ear. Vacation dreams twirl in my head anticipating our 40th wedding anniversary. Now summer plans beckon, luring me into an early complacency, an escape from the now. Life from many seasons is certainly popping like spring-time.

This is the most crucial time to slow down and listen. Too much of anything is too much, the flooding of our lives whether by suffering or good activity, easily leads us away from the deepest conversations of our souls. It takes courage to pass through all the subconscious gossip in our minds, to gently let go the human need to control our messy lives through good work, to let language and mental activity release their tight grip on our minds. What is most important is often quietly waiting in the shadows, just outside the periphery of our consciousness. If we are honest, it takes attention to bring our full presence to the springs of change bursting inside us. To stop, look and listen before we act is a gift of winter.

The winter snow illuminates with a stark clarity our single place on this earth and the preciousness of each frosty breath, the uniqueness of each loving act. Each snowflake calls us to see the mystery of creation, the vast abundance of multiplicity, of how we are all connected, so different and yet the same. It brings me to kneel and be quiet, to honor this day, as Annie Dillard has said, “ … each day is a god, and holiness holds forth in time. I worship each god, I praise each day splintered down, splintered down and wrapped in time like a husk …”

Like my spring garden in April, there is so much work to do that it is easy to lose the fantastic pleasure of each simple moment. This morning, I’m glad I stopped and wrote out what my deeper heart was saying.  Now I can attend with care to each active step of all that today brings. Writing is my prayer, my shout of joy that scrolled out today on this page, preparing the way.

How do you slow down and pay attention to the dark mystery hiding in winter’s shadows? Where and how do you find thoughtful pleasure in the demands of all your good work in this world?

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