Tuesday, February 1, 2011
There is plenty to keep a nature student entertained in winter. I have always been fascinated with the delicate beauty of last season’s dried seedpods and berries that hang unto limbs long into the New Year. June Carver Roberts, published by Ohio University Press, has written some of my favorite wildflower field guides for our Northeastern United States romp a-bouts.
My copy of, Born in The Spring, is worn around the corners as it has seen many a day in the field and a few in the rain. Roberts is an artist as well as a writer and her books are beautifully illustrated with detailed drawings and paintings of our local flora and fauna.
So understandably I was fascinated when at the mill in Athens I saw she has put together a winter botanical guide. Husband, who witnessed my enthusiasm, managed to secret one away to give to me on Christmas morn. Since then I have hoped for a long, quiet snowed in day to delve into its colorful pages.
Life keeps me busy and it seemed I couldn’t get to the book but the title lingered in the back of my mind. Why did Roberts call winter the season of promise? Wouldn’t spring when the songbirds begin to return and the earth is renewed with showers and all the green growing things start to unfurl be a more likely candidate for such a title?
Then, as we took our winter walks, I cherished once again the way Flowering Dogwood’s berries continue to deepen from bright to dusky in the depth of winter. I know from seasons past that somewhere along about February they must get to the just right, softened shade because it is then the Mockingbird decides to guard them from the cardinals and the jays, and keeps them all for himself. Perhaps they are Valentines to his mate?
Still, right now in January these scarlet droplets of fruit are swaying from the twig, right alongside the Dogwood’s tightly woven, heaven facing, buds of spring. Winter is the in-breath, the pause between what was and what will be, the fruit and the blossom waiting, side by side. Is this what Roberts refers to when naming winter the season of promise I wondered?
Thus prepared, I was ready to cherish the richness of the moment when at last I sat down in the chair by the fire with her book and opened the snow-white cover to find in the first few pages a preview by the author herself. To my delight she expounds on the title of her book and mentions many mysterious life-sustaining living and dying circumstances that occur under the cover of our Ohio winters every year, such as the soil being replenished by decomposing plant life, the fact that some plants bloom in winter and the way freezing temperatures allow some seeds to come to their full maturity.
What strikes me most of what she shares is this; “Some of the large wildflowers store food in rhizomes over two or more winters before having adequate reserves to produce a flowering stalk.” So much happens in the winter even though at first glance we assume we are looking out on a frozen and still landscape. Winter I now see is indeed a season of promise, but winter likes to keep this her secret.
Winter seasons of our souls are somewhat the same. Those times when we don’t feel productive and all our energy is zapped, from all outer appearances we may be doing nothing. Perhaps it would be comforting to remember it is ok to rest, it is good to rejuvenate and just being still can be productive. There are times when it is right to keep our reserves hidden safe underground. Winter season is a time of inner growth, a time for the seed to mature; when our spring comes we will know. Meanwhile, winter has a quiet beauty.