by Sara Etgen-Baker
I strolled through our backyard, the footpath sparkling and crunching like sugar underfoot. Under December’s dove gray sky, the colors of my world donned their winter coats, each hue darker and richer than before. The flowers in my garden slept, and the bare branches of the oak trees showed their lofty arms. A hushed silence enveloped me; and the crisp, cold air brought me right into the now. Oh, no! Winter’s here! I sighed and scurried inside.
January arrived bringing weeks of sunless harsh days. Snow and ice laid like a glistening white sheet over the backyard, and winter’s dreariness settled over me. I often stood on the back porch, the frigid air penetrating my skin and chilling me to the bone. I shivered and felt myself being silently drawn by the strange pull of something; an undefinable, almost mysterious stirring or yearning in my soul. I dismissed my feeling as the one I typically get in winter, the one that longs for spring. Yet part of me sensed there was more to this yearning.
Winter was unbearably long; and I grew discontent, not just with the winter weather, but with myself. By late February, the first signs of spring grew boldly as if commanding warm weather to come even faster. I so wanted the flowers to emerge and could almost smell the promise of their fragrance. I slipped into my gardening boots and trampled across the backyard where I found my husband pruning a rose bush along the fence. I watched him snip and clip until the bush was nothing but a stump of nubs and limbs.
“Do you think you’ve overdone it, Bill?” I asked. “Can anything possibly bloom out of this?” I found myself staring at it with a twinge of sadness and a sudden sense of kinship.
“Pruning removes the dead wood and actually encourages new growth,” he replied confidently. “Pruning shapes the rose plant and gives it a new direction.”
Can that possibly happen in my life? Can pruning and cutting away the old bring an unfurling of newness in me? I don’t know. I’m discontent, but I don’t know if I want to grow back any differently.
“Do you suppose that sort of thing happens to people?” I asked, unaware I’d spoken the thought out loud.
“Why not?” he said. “Something completely new can happen to you.”His remark stirred something inside me. There it was again; in the midst of springtime’s promise was that mysterious, unsettled feeling I’d felt during the depth of winter. What if things that mattered before no longer matter to me, and the things that never mattered suddenly do? What if I become different; so different that no one recognizes me? How will my life change?
As the days of spring peeled away, I recognized the need to tend to my rose garden and do some pruning, shaping, and letting go. Like the unfurling of spring’s rose petals, I needed to open myself up to a newness I couldn’t always control.
A teacher’s unexpected whisper, “You’ve got writing talent,” ignited Sara’s writing desire. Sara ignored that whisper and pursued a different career but eventually, she re-discovered her inner writer and began writing. Her manuscripts have been published in anthologies and magazines including Chicken Soup for the Soul, Guideposts, Times They Were A Changing, and Wisdom Has a Voice.