Friday, 12 February 2016


Lately, it’s a delight to peek out at the yard through the raindrops and see what’s happening.  The flash of gold in the pond means our fish have decided to unearth themselves from their winter hideout in the muddy bottom.

The garlic, planted last fall, is up at least 6 inches. And under our dining room window, the snowdrops have begun to bloom. The garden is waking up.

The word “awakening” has been floating around in the back of my mind for the last few days, a sure sign that I’m supposed to blog about it. It’s a lovely word, setting my neurons to tingling. If you created a word web, with AWAKEN at its centre, you’d  come up with lots of connections, many of them having nothing to do with the physical experience of opening your eyes after a good night of sleep:

And to this, I should add Star Wars – its latest blockbuster is entitled “The Force Awakens.” 
While we all awaken every morning, we also have many other awakenings in our lives. It’s the Aha! moment, when we suddenly see something in a different light. Or it could be a gradual understanding that we are not the same people that we were 10 years ago. Or perhaps, the awakening happens just as we’re entering a new phase in life, when something which had been incomprehensible before now makes complete sense.

In this sense, awakenings are what happens to us over and over in our lives. One of my earliest memories is of such an awakening. When I was a child, like all other children, I thought I was the centre of the universe. But something happened when I was 6. We were living on a farm outside of town, with big old maples lining the long drive which led to the gravel road. It was a perfect summer day, big fluffy clouds in a blue sky, and green corn growing in the fields.

My sister and I (on right) in front of the farmhouse, with big trees in the background.

When I begged my mom to let me walk to the neighbour’s farm where my dad had gone to borrow something, she let me go, all by myself. It is a memory I have more than 60 years later, a memory of beauty all around me, a sense of awe and amazement filling me. As I look back on this moment, I realize it was the beginning of understanding that this world was huge, and I was just a little person, not at all the centre of the universe, but a very significant part of it.

Such awakenings have happened often since then. There was the horrifying moment in the middle of an argument with the resident sweetie, when I suddenly realized that I was guilty of all the things I was accusing him of. That wasn’t fun – but it was necessary. There was the time I read a challenging book, and when I closed it, I knew that I could never look at the world the same way again. I felt as though all my life I’d been living in a secure little world, which,like an eggshell, had protected me; but through reading the book, the eggshell had cracked. Sometimes, when I am working on a piece of writing or a piece of art, I am  suddenly aware of something that I would not have been able to express before I began the work. These are awakenings and they change me.

Some people have sudden awakenings, like a flash of light on the road to Damascus that the apostle Paul experienced. The experience left him a changed man. The Aha moment is so exciting, you’ll never be in doubt that you have experienced something special. Other times, an awakening is a gradual awareness – you take little steps in a certain direction without much thought, but one day you realize you’ve gone so far on the road you’re travelling that the road has changed you.

The snowdrops below my dining room window have been teaching me a lot this week about that kind of awakening. They are such humble, unassuming flowers – not bold and brassy like daffodils, or beautifully elegant like tulips. They push their way out of the ground in January, and because it’s still cold, they grow slowly – just little green nubbins in the cold brown earth. We hardly notice them at all, but they keep growing. One day, we notice that the green spears are bearing flower buds, and then that the buds are slowly turning from green to white. There they stand, like shy maidens, their heads hanging demurely. I picked a few stems and brought them inside, poking them into a vase of heather. Then this morning, I noticed how much they had changed again, brought into early bloom by the warmth of the indoors. Their heads were still hanging, but if you took the time to really examine the flowers, you would see that  now the buds were wide open, revealing a beautiful green central trumpet set off by three white petals.

And so I think about that little girl that I was – the little people we all were – with so much potential hidden inside us, sometimes gently, gently unfolding, gradually revealing more and more, but sometimes forced into a sudden blossoming by new conditions. The heart of who we are now has always been there. As we move through life with all its challenges and changes, more and more of us will be revealed if we are willing to awaken to new possibilities, pay attention to what is around us, and are open to growth and change.

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