How do you know when you’re ready to blossom?
I’m thinking about this while staring into the cheerful, upturned purple faces of a patch of crocuses. They are traditionally the first bits of life that make an appearance in March when the harshest winter days are thinning out. Sometimes the green spindles of their stems are already pushing through the frozen ground and patches of snow in February, and just the sight of such verdant color issues the B-12 shot of optimism and energy needed to pull me through the end of the season.
This year they were in full bloom by February. Like everything ruled by the weird new rhythms of our aching planet, this development was unusual, but not surprising. The unpredictability of the weather means that in the space of three hours these delicate things could be crushed under a foot of snow or scorched by a freakish 70-degree warm snap. I was worried for them.
“Oh they’re fine,” says my mom. “They always pop up early.” I’ve emailed her about this development. My mother gardens from her gut. She has a long relationship with the earth based more on keying into the natural habits of plants than it does running to “the Google” every time a shoot fails to take hold (guilty). I’ve relayed my concerns that the flowers are headed for certain doom and they won’t be able to take the cold and it will end up killing them off at the bulb and we’ll never see them again. With gardening as with life, there is always the opportunity to insert a bit of drama. But to me it has the epic-battle-for-survival kind of situation. She counters, “Don’t worry. They’re hardy.”
The flowers obviously know what they’re doing. They answer a call every season no matter what’s coming to greet them at the surface.
I’m feeling what the crocuses are bringing this year because I’m in the midst of change and growth. I’m embarking on some new career paths, which means that I’m leaving others behind. Endings are on the horizon. There was the recent conversation with a friend where I begged her momentarily for the future validation I know I’ll need: “Tell me I can do this, right? And remind me later when I feel like a falling down mess.” She said all the right things of course. Surround yourself with friends like these on the regular. They are your DNA. To another friend when I told her about my decisions I found myself saying repeatedly, “It was just time.” At first I thought it was something to say in order to sidestep having to drill down and justify my transition on a practical level, but those reasons came floating to the surface anyway. And then I realized that this statement was the bald truth—it was time and I don’t know how or why I know that, I just know it to be real. I turned that over a bunch in my mind and a lyric from Patty Griffin materialized, “you must always know how long to stay and when to go.” Leave it to a songwriter to marry the hardest and easiest of actualities together.
I rake some of the leaves away from the flowers with my hands, giving them room to breathe and space to shine. Hardiness. It occurs to me that hardiness is more than steel, more than endurance. It’s an understanding that sometimes you have to bloom before you’re ready, before the conditions are ideal to show up. It’s agreeing to step out into something challenging or unknown without any guarantees. That takes guts, not just the place where bravery is born. What I mean is it takes keying into instinct and Faith that the time is now even if the mental landing gear has not quite unfolded. The soil is our doubts, at times maddenly difficult to puncture, but the only path there is to becoming.