Empty Hands

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This morning, a thin blanket of ice crystals stretched across the homestead. The pasture was studded white, the pond slightly frozen, the barn frosted. The garden, grey with the death that is winter, sparkled as if a million tiny diamonds bejeweled her. Historically, I hate winter. I miss the green so fiercely that sometimes it feels like a stomachache. 

There are weeks still remaining until I can tuck the first seeds of the season in soil. In the warmed greenhouse, I will fill pots and sow tomatoes and herbs and peppers, flowers and eggplants and all nature of lovely things. All the yearning of the winter will break open on seed starting day, and finally, it will be satisfied. Finally, then, I will too. 

Of course, it isn’t fair for me to hate winter. Winter itself has her merits, even if we are an ill-matched pair. She’s lovely, sure. People say, “Rest, girl. Learn to settle.” But I never have settled well. I’m a shaker by nature, a mover and a doer, and the seasons which demand settling have always had the edge of nails of a chalkboard to me. In the dead of winter, I am reminded of getting stuck in a jacket that’s a little too small, when you think you can easily slip it off, but then somehow you can’t, and so you panic. Maybe most people don’t feel that way. Then again, maybe the people who find my small jacket analogy unrelatable are the same people that enjoy January. 

I digress. 

It’s colder today than I like, and greyer, and though I’d love to optimistically wax poetic about the beauty of rest, it would be disingenuous. And I have made a pledge to myself to never lie to you. If I were to start writing disingenuous words, I would simply close my laptop and mope alone. Here I am, though, with cold toes, still typing. 

I spent my first twenty-something years not knowing I was a gardener. It was, all things considered, an early discovery to make in life. I have found my own nature amid the Earth’s wild fruitfulness. With my bare toes in the soil, the mover and shaker inside of me found something she couldn’t tear down with her restlessness. I came alive in the garden. It did not settle me but rather gave me permission to be exactly as I am. 

Sometimes, on sticky summer nights, I can be found between the rows, dancing. Arms flailing, tears falling, all the worries of dignity stripped away, there I come undone because with all the other wild things being what they simply are, I am brave enough to do the same. There, with all the green and all the life, beneath the vast Carolina summer sky, I am so intrinsically small. There, I raise my tiny hands in wonder that they could cultivate the earth and tame the beasts and sow and reap and, therefore, must worship Him who gave them that ability. 

I think, ultimately, this is why I find the winter so painfully restrictive. If I offer up the garden as worship to my King, what is void January but my tiny hands emptied?

Last night, I laid on my back on the solid, frozen earth, on the black plastic tarp that has tucked in the resting soil. Layered in wool and coveralls, my skin still felt the biting cold, and it reminded me of wanting to lavish my husband with the most romantic love sonnet but instead turning on the T.V. and watching another rerun of The Office while we scroll social media on our phones instead. These are the moments when the shaking, flailing, sowing and dancing energy that lives in my bones threatens to break me open. What is a wild woman to do in these anticlimactically tame moments? I suppose, though I am not enthused to admit it, the answer is to learn to simmer. 

Perhaps, in the winter, the great worship is in the waiting. Perhaps, the stomachache of longing is the sacrifice love makes. Maybe the lesson to glean from my empty hands is in how loved I am even when the garden does not grow.  

I do know that if someone had asked me to design the thing, I would have likely tangled it up into a dysfunctional mess. I wouldn’t hedge in the margin for rest, for recovery. I would have built all the gratification in on the front end, and I would make romance so commonplace that maybe we would all tire of it. Sure, that’s not a good thing, but don’t worry, I’m not in charge. There’s really no risk of me causing tangles. 

Because whether I like it or not, today is grey and frozen, and I am waiting. Maybe I’m throwing a fit inside, but I’m waiting nonetheless. I’m laughing at the episode of The Office and flipping through seed catalogs and simmering, letting the ferocity of my love grow deeper and stronger. I do not like winter, but nobody asked me, so she is here to stay. She is forcing our wild roots deeper so that when the weather breaks and the world turns green again, we will dance all the more. 

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