The Work and Cultivation of Spring

On the second or third day of spring last week, I stepped into our backyard to survey the melting snow and grass turning green from its winter dormancy. On the north side of our home, the lawn is in the shade of the house so snow from months ago is just now melting.

Photo by Debby Hudson on Unsplash

I looked at blackened Aspen leaves that weren’t raked up before the first snow of autumn last year. I walked through our dead kitchen garden that we were unable to winterize because of Frank’s visit to the ICU and subsequent recovery during the week we had planned on cleaning. I looked at seed pods and small branches that litter our yard from various wind and snowstorms. We have a lot of work to do in the next months before planting.

I’m reminded of the seasonal imagery I love so much. This past winter, I’ve been spending time reading and learning. Seeds are being planted and cultivated. I know that it takes time before I’ll see the fruits of these classes and experiences. In some ways, I love this season of quiet and growth. In other ways, I’m antsy to see what has taken root, what will grow from these experiences.

After walking around our disheveled yard, I’m also reminded that a seed isn’t planted and then suddenly grows on its own. Gardening takes work and cultivation. Dead growth needs to be cleared, the compost needs to be turned, the debris of winter raked and mulched.

I’d love to wake up on the first day of spring, look out the window, and see bulbs popping up and a ready-to-enjoy garden inviting me outside. I forget that getting our garden ready for spring takes a lot of effort. After a winter of quiet and rest, there’s a lot of work in the spring to get ready for summer.

I still have a lot of learning and unlearning to do on this journey. As much as I wish my own life’s season were as orderly and predictable as nature’s I’m learning that I can bounce from winter back to fall and skip to summer. And then there are the seasons that are specific to our own family and region – tax season and mud season and birthday season. (I love Addie Zierman’s thoughts on those other seasons: Break-Up, Freeze-Up and Other Understated Seasons.)

But I feel myself emerging from the quiet learning of winter. I’m ready to start raking and sorting and doing the work. While I’m in the garden, I’m able to imagine what I want to add or try each new season. Without spending the time doing the work, my imagination isn’t sparked in the same way it is as I’m actively pulling and cleaning.

I still have a lot of processing to do and I’m still holding my learning closely. But I love feeling the stirring of spring, the eagerness to sort out these ideas, and the energy to start cleaning up and preparing for the harvest.

What are you cultivating? What do you need to clean as you prepare for a season of harvest?

What I’ve Learned By Walking to School

Nearly every school day since mid-August we’ve had the same routine: Get up, eat breakfast around 7:00, head upstairs at 7:30 to get dressed and brush teeth, leave the house no later than 7:50 (but 7:45 is better) to walk and arrive at school by 7:55 as the kindergarten lines up to go inside. It’s a routine that works pretty well for us. If we eat earlier and the girls have time to play a bit before getting dressed, it can throw off our entire routine.

IMG_8633Really, anything can throw off our routine. It can quickly go from a well-run schedule to me nagging and asking sarcastically if Bea has ever seen a pair of pants before and if she knows how to put them on. (Model mothering right there…)

On the mornings that unravel, I’m tempted to buckle the girls in the car and drive. Even with the parking lot chaos, it would increase our chances of arriving on time. But more often than not, we still walk. It might mean we miss the second bell and Bea has to go in through the office. But it also means we have some breathing space between the rushed chaos and the start of school. It means we get some fresh air, a short walk, and time to hold hands and talk about the day.

I have to be intentional about putting aside my frustration on those walks. If I remained upset, they would do no good for a reset. I breathe, too, and remember that starting school excited and calm is much better than starting it with a grumpy attitude. So, I leave my last lecture at the door and as soon as we step onto the sidewalk, we talk about the blossoming trees, which specials Bea will have, and who she’d like to play with at recess. We talk about books and activities and notice our neighborhood.

By the time we reach school, even if we do have to go through the front doors rather than the kindergarten entrance, we are calmer, happier, and ready to give hugs and kisses. Elle and I wave to Bea, play on the slides for a few minutes and walk back home, ready to face the day.

This practice was especially important during those cold winter walks when our five minutes to school was a chance to see the sunlight and get outside. Now that it’s spring, it makes sense and this routine has taken on new life.

It’s reminded me that, even though it may make us late, building in space for pause and recalibration is so important. I know this is nothing new – that pause and rest and breathing all help me make better choices. They give space and perspective – both physical and mental. And yet this is something I forget over and over again.

I love May for many reasons but a big one is that it feels like a walk to school. After tax season and winter and going into head-down, hibernation mode, we’re coming up for air. We have a chance to recalibrate before summer when our schedule changes again. We are still in the school year routine but with all the hope and promise of dinners eaten outdoors and playtime extended after homework is finished.

This is the last week of Eastertide, this season of celebration. We are entering into Ordinary Time soon, which I love as much as any feast day. This year, I’m giving space between these seasons. I’m remembering to celebrate, yes. But I’m also remembering to look forward to a season of rest and recentering.

What ordinary habits have taught you extraordinary lessons? How do you pause and breathe during the changing seasons?

Appreciating Spring Snow

One of my favorite things about springtime in Colorado is that the weather changes quickly. The other day, it snowed in the morning and by the time we picked Bea up from track practice in the afternoon, we were wearing t-shirts and enjoying the sunshine and dry ground.

IMG_8673We’re up in the mountains, decompressing from tax season. We’ve found the importance of getting away after such an intense season. When we stay at home, we fall into old habits and patterns. A change of scenery is the break we need to reset.

Yesterday, we went swimming in the hot springs near our rented cabin. The girls loved climbing the rocks around the creek, finding the best natural pools to splash in, and soaking in sunshine and family time. We woke up this morning to a wintery landscape. Our mountain views were obscured with clouds, the trees had a perfect outline of snow clinging to their branches, and Frank started a fire in the wood stove as we ate breakfast, played games, and did puzzles.

I know a lot of us are itching for actual spring – for blossoms and predictable sunshine. I am, too. I can’t wait to plan our garden and put away the winter clothes. But I also appreciate this quick turn of weather. It’s a reminder of our family’s current season, as we reconnect and refocus on life as a family of four. In a lot of ways, reentry is like a Colorado spring. There are sunny beautiful memories, there are cozy wintery moments, and there are gales and winds that kick up the dust.

I’m remembering this takes some time and after years of practice, our expectations for these post-season getaways are much more realistic. We shut down, limit our screen time, and focus on the four of us. But real life doesn’t actually stop. The girls still bicker; I still long for alone time; Frank still has some business to wrap up. Those moments seem much more bearable and pass much more quickly when we’re intentional about this time of reconnecting, and I’m glad for these pattern breaks as we enter this next season of spring and a more normal family life.

What is spring like in your part of the world? Do you like unpredictable weather? How does that translate to your daily life and expectations? 

Linked with Five Minute Friday, a time to write without editing. Today’s prompt is “turn.”

Being Grateful for All Winter Has Taught

Elle and I met a friend at the Botanic Gardens on Monday. The weather was chilly but warmed up after about an hour. Most of the plants were still dormant and the staff had just conducted a controlled burn in the wild grasslands section so everything was brown and dry. We spotted a few fish in the pond, though nothing like the swarms we see in the

debby-hudson-574253-unsplash
Photo by Debby Hudson on Unsplash

warmer months. But as we walked, we saw signs of spring: Crocus and wild iris have started pushing through the brown. A small daffodil bloomed near the cacti and succulents building.

My friend and I talked about how the gardens are lovely to visit, even on these bare almost-spring days. There’s something so peaceful about this space of cultivated nature right in the middle of the city.

It’s a reminder, too, not to wish for spring too quickly. Before we know it, blossoms will be everywhere and we’ll experience the open-window weather followed by a blizzard that springtime in Colorado offers. I love spring, I do. I love having the fountain running and barefoot girls dashing about. I love sipping rosé and eating runny cheese outside.

But I’m also learning not to wish away winter. There’s something so hopeful in the barren landscape. When I walk around our yard on warm days, I imagine the potential that spring and summer bring. We have a lot of perennial plants I’m looking forward to revisiting and I’m thinking about the annuals we’ll put in pots.

I want to savor this anticipation and remember that, without the dry winter weather and brown landscape, spring wouldn’t carry the same magic that it does.

I’m learning to look at my own life for these almost-spring experiences. What needs to be dormant, just a bit longer before it can blossom? What do I need to give time to rest and restore before it bears fruit? How can I appreciate the dry landscape and pause to anticipate before I get my hands dirty with actual planting?

I love looking back in reflection. Connecting the dots over a variety of experiences can be so life-giving. But I’m also learning to pause in the midst. To take time to breathe, reflect, and be still before moving on to greener seasons. I’m hoping that, by practicing a love for almost-spring, I’ll cultivate a pace of recognizing signposts at the moment instead of hindsight.

I’m still looking forward to spring – to open windows and consistently sunny days. To meals outside and daily check-ins with neighbors as we live out front. But I’m also loving these last three weeks of March before spring officially arrives when I can breathe in this change and remember to be grateful for all that winter has taught me.

Are you anticipating spring? How do you prepare for a new season?

Spring is Saving My Life

After the winter that barely was, spring is here. Trees are blossoming with bees buzzing around; our backyard fountain is running again and birds are splashing and drinking; our hyacinths have bloomed and our other bulbs are pushing out of the ground. The windows are open. At first, just in the afternoon but now for longer and longer stretches.

SpringI know that we very well could get a blizzard or two in April and even into May, but after such a mild winter, I wonder. For now, I’m enjoying this spring weather. As Leo Tolstoy says in Anna Karenina, “Spring is the time of plans and projects.”

While there is nothing like cleaning the house with all the windows open, I’m more energized by the seasonal projects we look forward to. It’s still too early to actually plant anything in the garden, but we start to dream as we sip gin and tonics outside during nap time. We start to plan our camping trips and what Life After Tax Season will entail.

I love this idea of spring cleaning and planning and projecting. Dreaming about our next literal season as the warm weather and longer days are tangible is an important part of soul care, I think. Taking time to connect our bodies to the seasons, to remember that we are part of nature and in that, recognizing the need to shift our spirits with the seasons.

That’s what I love most about Lent and Eater aligning with springtime and new life. It seems natural to pause and take stock of where I am spiritually as I’m tidying and reorganizing my physical environment.

Just as I find the practice of stopping to take account for what’s saving my life midwinter, I love the practice of remembering that in spring, everything is saving my life. This is a time when I live out all my winter mantras and ideals. This is when life is blooming and I’m excited about our next season – both in decisions our family is making as well as the actual next season of March-June springtime.

So, as ice melts in my glass and I savor an afternoon of dreaming and list-making with Frank, I’m grateful for these spring moments of cleansing and renewal. Of a glimpse into what is to come, even if we do have another blizzard or two waiting.

Has spring come to your part of the world? Do you take time for soul spring cleaning? (And are you an actual spring cleaner?)

What I’m Into 4:14

In our family, April comes in like a lion and out like a lamb. The last big push before the April 15 tax deadline means late nights, working weekends, and hardly any family time. It’s pretty rough, and I am thankful that my parents live within an hour’s drive and we have a good group of friends as support. Frank took last week off and we had a staycation of resetting and reconnecting as a family.

Some highlights from last month were Bea’s first Easter egg hunt:

Bea quickly exceeded the 15 egg limit.
Bea quickly exceeded the 15 egg limit.

Building a fence around the garden in the hopes of rabbit-proofing. (And Bea- and Daisy-proofing… Bea adores her new tools and wants to till the soil constantly!)

Tilling with her new tools.
Tilling with her new tools.

Books: Finished and In Progress
April was filled with fun reads. I’ve started the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series to read between books, and they’ve been fun, quick reads. I just finished the third book and, though I enjoyed it, am glad I have a stack of other books before continuing the series. Rachel Held Evans rereleased her first book, Faith Unraveled. I’ve been a fan of her blog for a few years and this book held great insights into her journey and helped me appreciate her quest for justice even more than I had. Elizabeth Gilbert’s The Signature of All Things sucked me in and I was surprised at how much I came to like the main character, Alma. It made me want to read Origin of Species. I finished the month with Anne Lamott’s Stitches. Very short, but filled with such wisdom.

I just finished Elizabeth Esther’s Girl at the End of the World. I received a free copy from Convergent as a participant in their Easter series. It was a well-written, eye-opening, necessary look at what fundamentalism looks like. She restored my faith in the Christian memoir genre.

I’m reading Out of the Silent Planet for our Reading Challenge and liking it more than when I tried to read it in high school. We just started Phyllis Tickle’s Emergence Christianity and, only one chapter in, I’m regretting all the years I’ve wasted not reading her books. Amazing insights and I’m looking forward to our discussions! I also just started Conscious Capitalism. I saw it in the check-out line at Whole Foods and was intrigued. It’s definitely a departure from my normal patterns, but interesting so far.

You can connect over at Goodreads and Pinterest for all of my reading activity.

Screen Time
We’re still working our way through the Dr. Who series and have just started with Matt Smith’s Doctor. Such a fun way to unwind! We tried getting into season 6 of Mad Men but I’m not sure we’re up for all the drama. We also watched Mud on Netflix. I was about to give it 5-stars but demoted it by one for the last scene. Frank felt he forgot Matthew McConaughey was acting. I said his teeth were too white for the character. Which actors do you forget while watching?

Blogging
If you are at all interested in blogging, Laura Tremaine’s series on blogging is full of great insights. Kelli Woodford’s essay on her post-children belly button really struck a chord with its honesty. Over here, my most popular post was on Sleep. But, that was after I figured out a social media glitch. This month was definitely low for viewing because of that… (Don’t forget to subscribe so you don’t miss a post!) My own favorite was about Fairy Tales.

Around Town
My parents came up and gave us a day date last week, so we spent the day at museums. If you live in Denver and have any tiny interest in art, I’d strongly encourage you to check out Modern Masters. It’s an absolutely incredible exhibit featuring iconic paintings from most of the great artists between Pissarro and Warhol. After lunch, we went to the Clyfford Still Museum’s 1959 show. Even though I’m there several times a week, it was nice to walk through the galleries and simply enjoy the art without leading a group of kids.

What about you? What are you into these days?

Linked with Leigh Kramer’s What I’m Into. Head over there for fun books, activities, and goings-on from April.

What I’m Into 3:14

Bea and I just got back from a lovely five days visiting family in California. Since we’re nearing the end of tax season, Frank is gearing up and working longer hours. (Our “home by midnight” rule is being bent…) My mom was heading out anyway to help her sisters and my grandma sort out a transition to her next apartment at an assisted living facility and my dad agreed to fly with me so I wouldn’t have Bea by myself, so it seemed like good timing. It’s always wonderful visiting in the spring – everything is green and in bloom while we’re still waiting on a few late snowstorms before blossoming. My aunt’s house has an amazing hill to explore, so Bea went on many “‘ventures” while we were there. She also got lots of cousin time in, which is always fun!

On a 'venture in Aunt E's backyard.
On a ‘venture in Aunt E’s backyard.

Books: Finished and In Progress
I read a lot of good books this month! Next on our Reading Challenge was Ayn Rand’s We the Living. I think it’s my favorite of the books I’ve read by her: Shorter (less than 500 pages!) and the most autobiographical. If you haven’t read any of her work, I’d start here.

I finally read Luci Shaw after seeing her recommended by various people. The Crime of Living Cautiously was beautifully written and a great challenge. I also read Praying with Icons and am now thinking we need an icon corner in our house. One of my most spiritually moving moments was in a Russian Orthodox church so it was nice to read more about the practicality of using images while praying.

This was a month of reading thicker books that were quick reads. Monuments Men was a bit repetitive but such an interesting story I couldn’t put it down. Hopefully we’ll watch the movie, but our track record isn’t great these days… I also read Americanah, on Leigh Kramer’s recommendation and loved it! The story sucked me in and made me think about race and identity. Since my book club is still reading Disunity in Christ, it linked well with themes in that.

I’m still reading Girls Will Be Girls slowly – really trying to take my time with it. Next on my nightstand is Bend, Not Break by Ping Fu.

You can connect over at Goodreads and Pinterest for all of my reading activity.

Screen Time
Bea has been really into Fantasia and Fantasia 2000 lately, so that’s been on repeat. She loves announcing that she’s ready to listen to Beethoven, even though I think she just means the soundtrack…. I had forgotten what fun movies they are, so it’s been neat reconnecting with old favorites. When I was teaching, I would do a writing unit using Fantasia as an example of creating stories out of music and it’s been so cool listening to Bea retell the stories and add her own little spin.

Blogging
After a discouraging week in social media, Preston Yancey’s reflection was just what I needed to read. I also loved Sarah Joslyn’s A Prayer for Justice over at SheLoves Magazine. (Where, I just found out, I’ve been linked in their March Zine. Pretty cool!) Over here, my own favorite and most popular was Girls.

Around Town
I love springtime in Colorado! One day it’s 70 and sunny, the next, 40 and snowy. Our snow now is the fat, wet, spring snow that looks so pretty with tulips peaking through. We’ve been doing lots of Museum dates but now I’m thinking we’ll transition back to Botanic Gardens dates. We also opened up the backyard sandbox, and Bea would live there if I let her. Probably my favorite time of year!

We also finally went to the Wild Animal Sanctuary, a refuge for abused large carnivores. It was a great experience and we’ll definitely be going back. Highlight: Hearing a lion roar as he roamed his compound. Sad stories, but an amazing organization.

Checking out a tiger at the Wild Animal Sanctuary.
Checking out a tiger at the Wild Animal Sanctuary.

 

What about you? What are you into these days?

Linked with Leigh Kramer’s What I’m Into. Head over there for fun books, activities, and goings-on from March.