Flowers in Winter, Resilience in Grief

I’ve always loved the plant in this blog post's photo because it’s a winter bloomer.  Having grown up in the northeast, winter blooming flowers are still magical and mythical to me, despite having been in California for a decade.  But this particular flower is a special winter bloomer because one similar to it once popped OUT OF THE SNOW at the house I grew up in in Pennsylvania.  My dad, plant-lover that he is, and did a bit of research, then announced to the family that it was a “Christmas Rose.”  Apparently there are 20 species of hellabores, which are not in the least bit related to roses.  And, for the record, the two varieties I’ve encountered have always bloomed after Christmas, which I think is brilliant because who needs more holiday magic?  I need magic in January and February!

Remembering the magic of that Pennsylvania Christmas rose, I planted a hellabore on my rooftop a couple of years ago.  The thing about roof gardening is that you often need to “rearrange” the plants and switch who goes in what pot, where and when.  At some point I needed the pot this beautiful plant was potted in for something else, but I ran out of potting soil before I had a chance to repot it.  The errand to purchase more potting soil never quite made it to the top of the to do list, and the poor thing just sat in a pot, root ball exposed for 6 months.

One day early last January I stepped out onto the roof and noticed it was FLOWERING despite the fact that it wasn’t even planted.  I almost burst into tears.  At the time I was still in the throes of a deep, seemingly never-ending grief, sometimes questioning if I had the resilience to survive.  And here sat this incredible plant—not just surviving, but BLOOMING, carrying on, brightening my January with it’s bold, pink flowers despite not even being in the ground!  (Technically the bit of ground I carry up to the roof for it, but you get my point.)

Some people call these things small miracles, but for me this was no small thing.  The metaphor of this plant’s resilience spoke to me immediately.  In that instant, I declared it my temporary hero…and put on my shoes, walked to the car, and drove directly to the plant nursery to get it the soil my hero deserved (and was loooong overdue).

Nature metaphors are powerful magic for me.  They remind me that I am of nature and that what I am going through, even when it seems impossible to bear, has connection to cycles of life, time, renewal and transformation.  That it’s survivable.  That I’m not the only creature who has endured, who will endure, who can thrive despite incredible challenges.  They give me comfort, and they give me hope.

In fact I want to propose that connecting with nature metaphors like this is a strategy we can choose to consciously engage to boost and nourish our resilience in challenging times.  Whether it’s the changing of the seasons, the behavior of an animal, or the qualities of the landscape, connecting to these concepts connects us to something bigger than ourselves.  Something that just may be big enough to face, endure, and survive what we’re going through.

So if you’re in the midst of grief or change or uncertainty, I invite you to explore what nature can offer you to nourish your resilience and comfort your weary heart.  Which of her many metaphors will speak to you?