“In those days, though, the spring always came finally but it was frightening that it had nearly failed.”- Hemingway
Spring came, finally.
But did anything change? It’s childish to believe that a change of seasons can change one’s life, but still I do. My floristry work keeps me tethered to the seasons, connected to even the subtlest shifts. I know that life returns in spring. One moment I am scrounging for inspiration, florally speaking, and the next, I’m swimming in it. I have every flower at my fingertips. In April, I work with branches newly blossomed (and some already a bit turned), sweet peas, spirea, speckled ranunculus, lily of the valley. The lean months are over. I take evening walks and forage more than my share of lilac and wisteria. There’s a vase on my kitchen counter, filled with cuttings from my garden. Pink & purple petals cling to every article of clothing I own; I imagine I leave them behind me also, like a trail of crumbs. I look at the flowers I work with and grow, and I feel wonder over this sheer capacity for renewal. This potential that longs to be expressed in all of nature, even me.
And as spring dawns, I do feel this– this desire to reach my full expressive potential. In my experience, springtime inspires writing, and I jot things down in quick bursts. I journal and reflect, even more so than I do on long winter nights, and. I am generally more inclined to read poetry, with the birdsong and nature rejoicing and what have you. My workload increases as I turn to wedding projects and make beautiful things. And of course I see daily, incremental changes in my garden as the bulbs, then the sweet peas, cosmos, zinnias, and dahlias emerge. I get out in the sun and give my body to simple tasks– digging, planting, composting, weeding. Life does return, in every capacity. I experience this in a very tangible way through my work, through nature.
So, Spring 2017. I still love the seasonal activities– I think of my day, and how I filled buckets of new forages, and arranged flowers in ways that pleased me. I think that yes, I have been intentional about writing and reading improving things. My garden looks far better than it did at this point last year– cleaner, calmer, more controlled; harnessed by research and experience. But I am dimmer. A bit of the zest, the energy, is missing. This spring, I have less childish abandon. I want things to feel springier than they do.
Maybe my letdown has to do with the fact that I’ve been at this awhile. The past few springs, I was newly discovering floristry and nature. Every experience with flowers felt exquisite, delicious, revelatory; I was a child again and it was all happening for the first time. Maybe it’s not just that. Maybe now I have real expectations; I want more, professionally– more weddings, more opportunities– and spring feels like the time when I should have them. Maybe, likely, my skepticism stems from 2016, a year of transition and heartbreak. I feel raw and unsure as to whether a new, prettier season can patch me up. I think I might be a bit jaded.
I read a passage from Pema Chodron today that says, basically, things never get resolved. We are all striving to pass the test, overcome the issue, get to the all- important moment… but these things aren’t the cure. Things “come together again and fall apart again,” she writes, but the “healing comes from letting there be room for all of this to happen: room for grief, for relief, for misery, for joy.” You heal grief by grieving, and heartache by giving yourself permission to be sad. You heal by allowing the experience to move in and through you. And when you heal, you cannot assume that you have arrived into a state of untroubled calm.
On New Year’s Eve, I remember thinking back on a year of heartache and anxiety. If I can only get to the end of this year, I thought, I will really and finally breakthrough. 2017 will be it for me. I just need literal distance from this year and everything that happened. I pictured springtime, and thought, maybe then, in the midst of wedding season, I will be in my sweet spot. Poised, professional, busy, happy, unafraid in the pursuit of my calling. I could just feel myself coming out of the heartache, the depression, the anxiety, and becoming myself. I knew it was time.
For awhile, I had an incredible spark. I was desperate for newness, redemption, intention; I wanted to go at life full-out. Quickly, however, I realized that my anxiety, my depression, and relationship disappointments wouldn’t be filed away in 2016’s cabinets. I continued to deal with anxieties I was sure I’d outgrown. For all of my ambition, I fell into a spell of sadness. I continued to grapple with issues of self-love, self-worth, and acceptance. I continued to experience disappointment in relationships, and I continued, in turn, to disappoint others. There was no magic wand. There was no spiritual cure. Only growth, and maybe that’s the best I can ever hope for.
I find myself orbiting around things that feel so outdated. Old anxieties and fears. Old habits and tendencies. Just last week, I was forced to deal with the repercussions of a relationship I thought I’d buried. It’s like I’ve found a drawer of old love letters, and I’m being forced to read them over and over again. And I believe so passionately in renewal that this bothers me. I believe so stubbornly in spring, that I’m disappointed. It bothers me especially, when I want so desperately for this year– for my preoccupations– for this life– to be different.
Maybe it is possible to feel that within me, there is in fact the invincible summer (or in my case, spring) that Camus wrote about. Maybe I fail to realize that there is in fact something stronger than me, continually pushing back at whatever life offers. I have remained creative, hopeful, and prayerful. I still make beautiful things most days. I still reach out to help and be present in the lives of my loved ones. I still believe in healing, and in redemption. Some days I utterly fall apart, but most days I actively try to rise above.
The light always breaks through. Sometimes it takes weeks, months, years, but it never truly abandons us. I know that this year, I will face difficult things. Life will come together and fall apart, and come back together and fall apart again. My growth will be untidy and sometimes unproductive, but still I will grow. I will continue to make my best art, pray my most honest prayers, and show up. I will try to live surrendered to God and others. I will continue my artistic and spiritual journey. I will try.
If I take a more honest inventory of spring, I see that I have struggled to grow things. Some things in my garden have flourished, others have failed entirely (looking at you, sweet peas). This is true also of things I had no hand in growing; the pink branches I foraged for these photos have already turned. The wisteria I snuck from alleys is leafy green, all its purpled petals have fallen. And even the healthiest tulips and narcissi that I harvest do not come clean from the ground– some petals are bruised and some flowers half-formed. Nature also struggles. It struggles at human hands, and it struggles in its own right. A garden will undergo some amount of strife in even the most ideal conditions.
I believe that each person is fully capable of attaining her full potential. I think of the care I give to even flowers– I want them to reach a kind of fullness of expression, as part of a bridal bouquet, or an arrangement that made a sad person happier. And I believe that I am similarly nurtured by divine love; there is a sovereign hand that guides my life. With enough yielding and trusting, I can fulfill what I was placed here to do. I can create art and be at peace; I can write and live to see beautiful places; I can love and mother and serve others. I will grow into these things. My growth may be messy and unproductive at times, but still I will grow.
I’m no longer alarmed by my spring letdown. I see nature all around me, struggling, but rapturous in its struggle. For all of its imperfections, it is full of poetry; it speaks to me. Such is life, my life.