What to Do with the in-between season

As I write this, it is the first day of Spring.

From the white board in front of our makeshift homeschool classroom, I can erase the word “Winter” from the combination “Winter/Spring”. We live in a form of winter/spring for a handful of months in the Central Valley. The weather warms, but might still freeze. The temperatures reach up near 70, inching bit by bit, because a cold spell and a day of rain makes us all remark how like winter it is in March.

Purple iris

Other states sit covered in snow, waiting for the flowers to poke through the icy layers, signaling the end of a long winter will not be too far off.

Californians start their seedlings, but plant them also, seeing the first fruits in their open fields. Farmers carry in boxes of citrus, as sweet as candy, while we smell the sweetly scented air filled with almond blossoms and pollen.

Landscape with cut flower garden and seedlings

It is winter/spring here in California when the mud puddles merge together with puddles from misdirected sprinklers, their timers signaled too soon in preparation for dryer spells. Children shed their winter clothes for lighter garments, only to shiver once the sun goes down because the mornings are below 50, the coldest temperature we generally see.

It is winter/spring as our loved ones receive the vaccine alongside the safety, hope and peace it brings to know they can gather again with loved ones will still following CDC guidance; as some of our youth return to schools and sports and order special masks and bell covers to play their preferred instrument with the victorious spirit of a high schooler who has faced something no generation before ever faced.

It is winter/spring as liturgically-focused Christian religions move through the Lenten season, with just a shot time remaining before Easter, the highest of holy days, the more triumphant, grandest, important celebration to the heart of Christian belief. To enter the church that Sunday, the church they could not enter one liturgical year ago, when doors were closed and services live-streamed and Easter egg hunts canceled.

It is winter/spring as we gather with others in small numbers or shop for plastic eggs at Target while still wearing masks, keeping our distance and trying not to make physical contact with someone we do not know, when once a handshake might have been the best approach.

It is winter/spring as my daughter bends the top line of the growth chart, yet never sleeps. As my son outgrows another size of clothes, but has surgery next month. As my oldest learns Latin but will go into 6th grade, signaling to me the beginning of the end of her children and her emergence in a new phase of life, one I have never experienced before as a mother.

The weeds grow with the new flowers. The dahlias emerge even where the cats scratched. The rain waters the fields even as it inspires the weeds to give it one last go before the vegetable garden is planted.

Detail of cut flower garden with white garden bench

All of our lives we live in this winter/spring, with the bare ground filled to the brim with seeds and life waiting for just the right amount of daylight, warmth and water to break forth. In this season all the potential is there. We have only to wait a little longer, tend the ground a little more gently, and continue to feed the heart and soul of the project with the very best we have, the practice of virtues, including kindness, understanding and justice determined by reason and not emotion.

Understand and embrace the duality in which we must live, the tension to which we must adjust. Even as today is the first day of spring, a chill is in the air. Nothing ever fully ends or disappears, and the beauty that lies in wait for us lies within this tension.

Discover it. Embrace it. See what is has for you today.

Pink and purple early spring bouquet

Respect the Creation

When September arrived, my heart was caught in flurry of garden must-do’s. It was perennial time and sweet pea planting time. We worked feverishly through Labor Day weekend. My excitement drove my energy forward despite the pregnancy. One of the most important tasks, in my mind, was to plant the sweet peas. Unable to bend, I dug the holes with a shovel and set my five-year-old to sow the seeds. “They’ll be your sweet peas,” I told her for motivation, “and when they bloom you can pick them and make a bouquet.”

But we were in too great a rush. I never installed the necessary trellis to support these vining plants. Spring came and with it the shoots of sweet peas who mangled other plants, housed pincher bugs and one black widow.

They were beautiful, albeit demanding.

This past weekend, at the beginning of June, it was time to take them out, half-dried, and allow the other plants to breathe. I set my girls to work.

I hauled the bushy bundles to the sidewalk, gave one daughter a pair of snips and other scissors, and said, “look for the dry, brown pods and put them in this basket.”

We talked about selling the seeds, about gifting the seeds and replanting the seeds.

“Why are we doing this?” Asked my nine-year-old, who has bigger things to do.

“Because we should,”

I answered, a jumble of other thoughts bouncing around my sleep-deprived mind.

We have the seeds. The seeds are easy to harvest. We should not waste them.

Creation demands a little respect.

But I can only hear its demands when I bow to the fact that I am a steward and not the creator.

We stop all other projects in September to plant.

We drop them again in spring to plant, weed, and ensure good watering practices before the heat comes.

And again in summer when the field needs irrigating, the vegetables need trellising and the flowers need picking.

We make this choice to submit. We could simply go to the grocery store, instead.

But in the labor, in the commitment, in the mistakes, we are reminded of the bigger thing. We did not make it, and so we have rules to follow that are not ours. I do not create the rules myself. I cannot plant the sun-loving plant in the shade and I cannot will the shade loving plant to flourish in full California sun. “I think therefore I am” has no place when faced with the reality of nature.

I must observe, listen, accept the reality of things and adapt my plans.

Like life, I cannot will this plant to thrive.

Like the garden, the quality of another is not dependent on my saying it is.

It is my life that is lacking if I fail to recognize the value, the uniqueness and the beauty that lies around me, outside of me, not made by me, not determined by me.

My life is better when I open myself up to discover, to be in awe. And I feel the value of my life recognized when others do the same for me. That value is easier to hold against the temptation to self-deprecation or despair when my weaknesses rear their ugly little heads.

But in a world where we are told we make our own reality, we define our terms, it is easier and easier to forget that there are rules, laws, and rights to be recognized, submitted to and upheld. The world is a grief-filled, gritty place, like this rocky soil I tend each week. It is filled with trouble, like the weeds I pull to protect the growth of something inexplicably beautiful. It takes work to make the world as it could be.

But when we do it, the result is something more true, more unifying and more beautiful than we could ever imagine. And that is worth the humility of moving a plant and tying a trellis in the allotted time.