On winters, disappointment and dead flowers
Here in southeast Michigan, winters cling. It arrives as a November novelty, and we’re all doe-eyed over a white Christmas, but after we ring in the New Year we realize we’ve been duped. We muscle through icy January and about half of frigid February, and from there we’re flat-out annoyed. Just when we think things are looking up, long about mid-March, it dumps a foot of snow to remind us who’s in charge.
It’s this point at which the four of us sat around the fire this past March, dreaming of verdant trees and veggie gardens. Maybe we’d give peonies a try this year? I grumbled that we still had two-plus months to wait, and that we should consider moving someplace warmer. As we brainstormed ideas on how to get away from this dreary, dead-brown, ugly landscape, I barely noticed as my daughter (8) geared up and slipped out onto the tundra.
When I get going, I tend to get a bit dramatic, and I began to rant about our winter-weary existence and how we only needed to clean out the basement, slap a coat of paint on the front door and put the house on the market. Never mind that cleaning out the basement alone would take eight months. Never mind that we are slowly building a homestead on this little slice of country land. No matter – I’d had it. I’d been enduring these winters for so long that I now felt sure they weren’t seasons, but living, breathing, mocking, glacial, bullying spirits sent to torment me. No two ways about it, we’re outta here.
My daughter crept back inside, disassembled her snow-clad self, threw her gear in the dryer and vanished again. I continued my rant, but I noticed my husband’s eyes had begun to glaze. I quieted a bit and complained about lugging firewood in from the garage, about the sea of wet boots by the front door, about the poor chickens flopping around outside in the snow.
My daughter returned, wide eyes shining and lips sort of tilted in hope, one hand behind her back. I knew this expression; she had a point to make.
“What is it, Brynn?”
Her feet shuffled beneath her. “Mommy, do you really think it’s ugly here?”
Oh, dear. “Brynnie, I’m just tired of winter, that’s all. I’m anxious for spring and for everything to be green again instead of brown.”
“But it doesn’t have to be green, Mommy. Brown things can be pretty, too.”
Red flags went up in the back of my mind. I was being baited. Still, “Well, I don’t know, I-“
She brought her hand out from behind her back. While we were griping, she had hiked out into the field and carefully selected with small hands a bunch dried hydrangeas, Queen Anne’s Lace, wheatgrass and cuttings from our withered butterfly bush. While we wallowed in self-pity, she quietly arranged a sepia bouquet.
“See, Mommy? Brown things can be beautiful.”
She was right. In combining these textures and shades, the translucent and fragile qualities of these dried flowers and weeds, she had created something altogether unique, and altogether lovely.
As I rummaged for a vase, I realized I’d been looking at things all wrong. We can get stuck in ruts, whether it’s a season or a job or a marriage or even faith, we begin to believe the proverbial grass – or, in this case, the season – is greener someplace else, when the truth is there’s abundant beauty and blessing right where we are – if we only have eyes to see.
That frozen Mid-March day, I was fortunate enough to have my daughter reset my eyesight. I remembered how easy it is to point out the ugly, the uncomfortable, and the wrong; but really, where does that path ultimately lead? That day, my daughter reminded me how important it is to challenge myself, to find my own inner child and summon the strength it takes to discover a fresh perspective, and to be thankful.
I read somewhere that in the act of giving thanks, it is impossible to harbor negativity. I don’t know about you, but I could do with a little less negativity in my life.
That dried-flower bouquet? We still have it. It’s perched on top of our little china cabinet as a reminder.
Dead flowers are beautiful, too.