Parker Palmer’s book Let Your Life Speak continues to bring insight to my life right now. I have been reading his meditations on the seasons, this morning about spring. He notes that, while we tend to glorify spring with its blooming splendor, it doesn’t begin beautiful. Early spring is grey and muddy and downright depressing. He writes: “…the humiliating events of life, the event that leave ‘mud on my face’, or that ‘make my name mud’ may create the fertile soil in which something new can grow.”
He notes, too, that in that mud that can suck our boots, the only signs of life see are tiny green shoots here and there, hardly noticeable. It will be weeks before we can identify them by leaf or flower, yet these little seedlings are bursting with life. “Spring teaches me to look more carefully for the green stems of possibility,” Palmer writes, “for the intuitive hand that may turn into a larger insight, for the glance to touch that may thaw a frozen relationship, for the stranger’s act of kindness that makes the world seem hospitable again.”
In another book I am reading, On Women Turning 70, Marge Frantz is quoted as saying: “The longer you live, the more you learn to put things together and have a broader view and a little distance, to think more objectively.” I think this is true for me. While I tend to be taken in by what I call “grey days”, there is the self in me that remembers the totality of spring. As Palmer suggests, I am noticing wee signs of growth in myself and others and often it occurs during muddy days, times when life seems dire. It makes those times survivable. This is what hope is really about, believing that there are seeds here in this muddy place about to burst.
But youth is impatient, mostly because it hasn’t yet accepted pain a part of life. “Let’s get this over with,” youth says. Palmer suggests that addictions are about escaping the pain that life is bound to bring. In my world of recovery, the newcomer is admonished to “accept life on life’s terms”. It is the hardest lesson a newly recovering person has to accept. Those accused of being controllers are actually trying to maneuver their environment, including the people in it, to prevent pain. I know – I’ve been there.
Palmer mentions humiliating events. I think these are especially powerful in spurring growth because they expose the ego, that part of our selves that gets in the way of growth because it is a counterfeit version of the true self. In the realm of spirit, I believe, it is the discovery and living of the true self that we are here on earth. But just like the little seed, it takes time to grow and survive, blossom and eventually bear fruit. It is in the bearing of fruit that our greatest contribution is made.