Posts Tagged ‘patience’

Darkest Before Dawn

Three days into the new year,
and despite the lack of adequate light,
our white phalaenopsis orchid
has eased open a third delicate bloom.
Perhaps coaxed by the warmth
of the woodstove a few feet away,
the orchid thrives in its tiny pot
shaped like the shell of a nautilus,
sending out new stems and glossy leaves,
its aerial roots—green at the tips—
reaching upward like tentacles
to sip the morning air. These blooms
stir something too long asleep in me,
proving with stillness and slow growth
what I haven’t wanted to believe
these past few months—that hope
and grace still reign in certain sectors
of the living world, that there are laws
which can never be overturned
by hateful words or the wishes
of power-hungry men. Be patient,
this orchid seems to say, and reveal
your deepest self even in the middle
of winter, even in the darkness
before the coming dawn.

I found this poem last winter in How to Love the World, a lovely, hopeful anthology edited by Crews. I have been thinking of it again in these cold January days: sometimes keen and blue and bright, sometimes grey and damp and dark.

While I am not growing orchids, my last paperwhite bulb – which sat on the kitchen windowsill for over a week with no signs of growth at all – has started to uncurl its green stem, perhaps in response to the blinding winter sunshine. I am taking it as a sign of hope, and thought it was apt to share this poem with you.

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brave stripes

“Will, I think you’re too brave to be a runaway.”

That wasn’t what Will had expected. She said, “I — what?”

“It is real life that takes the real courage, little wildcat. School is very difficult. But that’s because it takes toughness and patience. It’s what life is, my love. Although life is very beautiful, it is also very difficult.”

Cartwheeling in Thunderstorms, Katherine Rundell

In a season where every part of my life is requiring a lot of courage (see also: moving, new job, grief, other changes and transitions), these lines of Rundell’s resonated deeply. I’m posting them here as a reminder to myself, and to you, in case you need them too.

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“My short daily essays are the buds I put on bare branches,” writes Julia Cameron in The Sound of Paper (which is fast becoming my creative Bible). “If I am alert enough and an optimist, I see these buds and know that something rich is coming in. I am experienced enough to know that the light-green misting promises full foliage and real ideas that will emerge just as surely as the trees beneath my window will be heavy with green before too long.”

Encouraging words to a young writer who’s trying hard not to get discouraged. I write daily, or nearly daily, to “keep the clock wound,” as Madeleine L’Engle puts it. Some days, like yesterday, making a list of budding ideas is all I can do. Some days, like today, are more fruitful: I wrote a new essay and sent another one to a magazine. Of course, chatting with friends like Valerie helps…she gave me resume advice, writing encouragement, and a few laughs. (What else, as she said, is sisterhood for?)

“Something’s coming, something good, if I can wait! Something’s coming, I don’t know what it is, but it is gonna be great!”

So sang Tony in West Side Story, right before he met Maria. And so I have to believe. Something is coming. I just have to be patient. And keep putting out buds.

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