October. How can it be almost over? I feel like it just began.
One thing I've always said about California is that I never get used to the roses blooming in wild abandon in the months that they would have been frozen and dormant in the ground waiting for spring in Washington.
This year is no exception.
For many years after we moved here, I tended my heirloom roses with great care and detail. I even fired the yard crew that dared touch my precious roses. You would've thought they took hedge trimmers(HEDGE TRIMMERS!!) to my children as opposed to a few rose bushes for all the yelling and fist shaking. Yeah, I get a little psycho like that sometimes.
And then something happened and all the joy drained out of the roses. They had gone from being a source of peace, pride and awe to a painful reminder of a passion I no longer possessed. I stopped tending my roses. They grew wild and out of control in twisted brambles. Their blooms became unpredictable. They'd gone from tamed beauty to something out of a dark fairytale- still beautiful but no longer lovely, harsh somehow.
I let them go. I forgot their names. I no longer filled the house with their brightness and sweetness.
Years went by. They do that... and quickly.
Dean planted new roses for me. Still, I couldn't bring myself to touch them. They faltered. Roses, like most living things, need to be loved, even if just a little.
Eventually, Dean began to water them and prune them a bit. He sat down with the gardening book and learned how to prune them properly. He asked me questions. He began to care for them. They began to perk up a bit and eventually thrive under his minstrations. Now they are bushy and bursting with blooms, no longer being choked by weeds and neglect.
I've started taking pleasure in them again. I find myself stopping to pinch off dead flowers, pruning them a bit here and there, even stopping to smell the different blooms.
In many ways, it is yet another metaphor. The roses are not the only passion in me I have neglected these past few years. I have let go of friends, of places and feelings, let go of things that once defined me. I have retreated into a coldness where much of the time, I merely exist.
Maybe the metaphor is from a different angle and I am like the roses themselves. I have been laid bare by winter, gone dark, silent, frozen in the ground. And maybe I have been waiting for spring, dormant. One of the lessons one learns from tending roses and fruit trees is that sometimes you must prune them back hard. Sometimes, it seems as if they might have died, but if you look closely enough, you will see the possibility. When winter is cold and hard, the roses bide their time, gathering energy beneath the exterior, waiting for the thaw to come and warmth to coax them into blooming again, with abundance and happiness.
Mary Oliver asks, "Listen-- are you breathing just a little, and calling it a life?". Sometimes, though, breathing just a little is all we can manage while we coil into ourselves and regroup to live again.