Mother always said I’d be a late bloomer. Little did she know just how late. I chuckled to myself as I walked down the lane on a winter’s day.
Summer is just a memory now. The fragrances, the bright colors, the abundance of growth are gone. Snow flurries dance in the wind as I pass one by one the neatly bricked houses that were once surrounded by colorful impatiens in shades of red, pink and purple. Horticulturists call these flowers “busy Lizzies” or “impatient Lucys.” Much like the women who lived inside these houses, I thought. Busy with career, children, impatient with their lives. Busy having it all.
There are now naked brown vines where “heavenly blue” morning glories once bloomed. These flowers are often tied to fences and mailboxes. They need lots of support to show their charms. Unlike wild, carefree black-eyed Susans that spring up unexpectedly in ditches and rock piles.
Women historically have been the caretakers in birth and in death. As midwives, they brought new life into the world, and as caretakers they ease the passage through this world. Many folktales from Europe, from countries such as Hungary and Germany, are actually a kind of map of the psyche handed down to us by ancient grandmothers. Full of archetypes, the fairy tales tell how to take care of the feminine soul.
They speak of renewal, of recovering that which was once sacred, and making time to replenish the self. They speak of growth and attaining knowledge and wisdom. They tell of the green apple which is young and tart like a young woman; it slowly matures on the tree and in time it becomes luscious red, ripe with sweetness.
Once must learn how to be kind. How to cultivate long-lasting relationships. How to spot a crisis. How to be firm but gentle.
There are women who are not necessarily doctors, lawyers or CPAs. They are the warrior heroines who do battle every day with fate, and identify oppressors inside and out. Often it is a silent one. Their adversaries are ominous: AIDS, cancer, poverty, depression, grief, abuse and trauma. Sometimes they confront more than one of these challenges at a time.
They continue to fight the good fight for they have discovered on their journey that even “the devil works for God.” Confronting the shadow within, they look fear in the eye. Carol S. Pearson, author of The Hero Within, writes of the wicked old woman who asks questions of her mirror. Because she is honest with the mirror, she becomes free from all her fears except one.
“I fear death. I fear change,” said the old woman to the mirror.
“Yes, they are frightening. Death is a closed door, and change is a door hanging open.”
“Yes, but fear is the key,” laughed the wicked old woman, “and we still have our fears.”
There exists, also within, a Gardener who overturns the soil periodically. She plants and cultivates for new growth according to the rhythms of life. Pruning, making beds, preparing. My nasturtiums were bedraggled from the hot summer sun. They forced a bloom or two, bright orange and red, in desert-like soil. Nevertheless, they did bloom.
A bitter unforgiving wind kicks up suddenly. The busy Lizzies and impatient Lucys are but a summer memory. “Be prepared,” the swift bit of wind announces. Beauty alone does not sustain one through the icy snows of winter. One must be strong from within, from long summer growth.
Be prepared, my friend, be prepared.
Published “Nashville Eye” March 21, 1996.