Dear Friends, Fans & Family....September in the high country, the very first whisperings of early autumn. The summer light has changed, and we are getting clear crisp nights now….bright blue-sky days, and cool refreshing rains. The season is turning all by itself…and our geraniums are blooming again.
I should first explain that I am not a gardener. If I want to bask in the glory of nature, I will take a hike in the aspen groves. My idea of gardening is to go over to the local nursery in mid-May and buy a bunch of red geranium plants, because they are showy and almost impossible to kill. I put them in red pots on the front porch and the back deck, water them from time to time, talk nice to them, and hope they make it through till the first frosts come in September or October, counting on them to be a hassle-free display of cheerful color for the summer season.
This June, when JD and I were out of town, we had some unseasonably hot weather here in Colorado, and at the same time everything also got pounded by a series of near torrential rains. We came back home to a wild lawn and some very scraggly-looking geraniums. I was sad, then annoyed, then oddly embarrassed. I considered secretly throwing the pots out, sneaking over to the nursery, and starting over again with shiny new ones. Except I couldn’t really afford that, and anyway they were already out of the good geraniums by then.
So I had to face the failure. A couple of friends who know about flowering plants told me a few basic steps to take:
1. Dead-head the blossoms….I was directed to pinch off the old ratty-looking blooms so the plants would get the message to create new ones. OK, I already knew that, but I had never had to deal with the aftermath of such mass destruction before. My relationship with the geraniums had always been an affable sort of rolling-along, an easy and constant up-keep, where nothing ever got too seriously out of whack, and everybody just kept blooming.
And now it looked like they were dying. Was I really supposed to get rid of ALL the red blossoms? Because then there would be no color at all, just earnest green and icky-looking yellowish leaves for who-knows-how long, and that did not fit with my decorating scheme. I found it really hard to prune away the old stuff. (How is this like my life?)
2. Next step: I was supposed to continue feeding the plants, and caring for them, even if they looked dead and crappy. I was directed to do the work, get out of the way, and let nature take its course. (I found it very hard to be steadfast, patient, and kind to the plants when they just looked so ugly. Like, this was a reflection on me? Embarrassing but true.) My gardening friends assured me that new blossoms would come back fine, all in good time. A few plants might not survive, and in that case I would just have to let them go. What??
This where it started becoming really obvious. Everything is a life lesson, right? It’s all done with mirrors. My scrappy little geranium friends were telling me, “It’s OK to go through some fallow times when your fancy blooms have been knocked off or worn away. Relax, you’re still alive. When you find yourself trudging through an uninspiring in-between place, you can shift your focus to your deep roots, and allow yourself to be nurtured from within. That’s where the real magic is coming from anyway. You do not have to push yourself to be beautiful and brilliant and rich and competitive and productive 100% of the time.”
I could almost hear their reedy little voices singing, “To every thing (turn turn turn) there is a season (turn turn turn)……and a time for every purpose under heaven.”
So, there it is: Maintenance and magic…trust and grace. We show up, do the work, tune in to who we really are, and then go with the natural flow, hopefully with a sense of compassion and good humor…being grateful for what is, what has been, and what will be. What a relief to remember that through it all we are being held and guided by Invisible Hands. JD wrote this song a few years ago with Paul Williams. Click here to listen to the music.
The geraniums are just a snapshot of a much larger order. In the old forests you can see the new baby trees sprouting among the fallen logs, the bones of their ancestors. Blossoms come and go, and so do we. But there is that continuity, that aliveness, the breath behind the breath, which we can ride on gracefully in every moment.
When my twin daughters were little, I had a poster in the laundry room, right over the folding table (I spent a lot of time in the laundry room in those days.) It was an old Ojibwe Indian saying that went, “Sometimes I go about pitying myself, and all the time I am being carried on great winds across the sky.”
Blessings to you wherever you are. Please keep in touch.
Love from Jan & JD
• September 8
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