New Year’s Eve
I pruned the rhododendrons by the front steps this week. Drastically pruned them. I love how it opened up the front of the house. Like trimming up the fir tree on the other side of the house two years ago, I feel like I can see beyond the present that sometimes closes in around me and out into the what’s next. And I wonder what might grow with more light.
And then I felt bad. Did I make a mistake? No, I didn’t ask “her” permission, as a friend queried. But if I had, the conversation might have gone something like this.
“My dear rhododendron twins. You have been growing here beside these steps for some decades now. And except for this past summer after my mother died, you haven’t bloomed for many years. You seem like you might be yearning to get back to your roots and start anew. Could I be right about that?”
“I feel weighed down by the responsibility to hold up all these branches,” she replied. “The birds don’t nest in me any more, I don’t bloom any more. My soul is buried down here where even I can’t find it. I’m tired. And they are holding me back from what might be next.”
“But you did bloom beautifully last year. It was incredible.”
“I wanted to honor your mother, who planted me, back when she was young. It seemed fitting that when she died, I should pay my respects. Really it took everything I had. Like the surge of lucidity and energy some of the dying have before the end.”
“I’m thinking of cutting you way back. You will be very exposed until you put out some new growth.”
“It sounds vulnerable, for sure. But I think this is the year, this is the time to step out into the world and take a risk. It may take me a few years to get comfortable, and I’ll probably wish I could just hide again and not have anyone scrutinizing me, but it will get better. And like your mother now, I will be full of energy and new life again! Go for it!”
And so it is. With the rhodies and with me as the sun sets on the last day.
I sit in candle and tree and fire light on the last night. I have written down and ceremonially burned what I want to let go of as the new year begins. No more remaining tight in the bud of fear, as comfortable as hiding is.
I make another list of 2018 accomplishments and successes. It is much longer. It includes sending my mother on, fulfilling my promise to care for her to the end.
I’m finishing up Michelle Obama’s excellent memoir, “Becoming.” She says of moving from her loving and encouraging, but always financially struggling, family into the opulence and spotlight of the White House (and even long before, when she went to ivy league colleges), she felt like an imposter.
Each time I have stepped out of my comfort zone I have literally told myself I have no business in the place I have put myself; and it has held me back from taking the next step, paralyzed by fear of someone finding out I’m not good enough.
And so, my mantra for 2019 is: ‘Am I good enough? Yes, I am.’ (Michelle Obama)
These two days of looking back and looking forward have become my consistently favorite days of the year. I did not—haven’t for many years—stay up until midnight. I do not revel or watch a ball drop. I don’t want company nor invitations. I sit here in the firelit room in the waning hours of 2018, aware that soon it will no longer be the year in which my mother left. And I weep. Was I good enough? I hope so.
The moon out the windows is waning too. And the fresh cuts on the stubs of rhododendrons are exposed to tonight’s sub-freezing temperature. Tomorrow I will look to my goals for 2019 that will send me spiraling, exposed, beyond what is comfortable. Will I be good enough?
New Year’s Day
As the sun rises on the first day I sit watching the shifting sky and letting the shift occur in me too. Out of the dark comes the technicolor dawn.
Along with a walk in the woods adjacent to my home, I sit by another fire contemplating what I want in the year ahead. As I have for several years now, I do my friend Joanna Powell Colbert’s new year tarot spread with her beautiful Gaian deck. Usually the cards and my interpretation of them bring up thoughts that are spot on responses to the seven questions. This year’s is very confusing. Maybe that in itself is a response.
I dream in the new year with a list of intentions. Joanna, my favorite earth mystic, soul guide, and friend, says keep your list to just three or four goals. Otherwise you set yourself up for failure. I have seven. I think they are all doable if I just decide I want it enough. Though there is the one that’s on my list every year, and I haven’t done it yet. Walk more in the woods I loved as a child, and learn the names of what lives there, as my mother knew. Ironically “Explorer of Earth” is the card I drew in the “what do I leave behind in the new year” position.
As Joanna says of the turning of the year, “[This is] a time when the old no longer seems to fit, but the new is only a dream.” And so it is with the rhododendrons and with me. The space has been cleared, the seeds of an idea have been planted. And now we water and fertilize and wait and see what will bloom.
Will I be good enough? Yes, I will. Will I succeed or fail? Time will tell, but it won’t turn on a lack of planting and pruning.
With a garden you never know for sure what will or won’t happen—whether anything, in fact, will grow…We’d asked everyone to watch what we were doing. Now we had to wait for the results. (Michelle Obama)
And the sun sets on the first day. And now the work of the new year begins.