Sunday, March 23, 2014

Life in bloom

Another reflection at the Unitarian Society of Santa Barbara this morning. Today's post is in honor of Spring.

My husband John and I have become infamous among our friends and family for taking pictures of ourselves, selfies, on the beach. After one photo posted on Facebook a couple of weeks ago, my sister commented "How many beach selfies can one couple take?" My husband replied, "I don't know, but I'm willing to try to find out in the name of research." The real reason I take and post these pictures isn't  in the name of research but more to do with gratitude.

Springtime in Santa Barbara is very different than springtime where I grew up in Michigan. While Southern California enjoys flowers blooming and birds chirping year round, the signs of spring are hard won near the great lakes. While here we count the days since the last rain, I remember growing up in Michigan in winter when the news broadcasters had a counter on the screen ticking off the numbers of days since we had seen the sun. Winters were harsh and we anticipated spring much like hungry bears coming out of hibernation, but we weren't looking for food. We were looking for crocuses.

If you don't know what a crocus is, imagine a tiny, delicate flower, usually purple or yellow, popping
up through melting snow. Yes, often these little flowers pushed up through ground still covered with snow white flakes, proudly waving the banner that Spring is Near! on their tiny petals. More reliable than that fickle ground hog and more constant than the first robin picking the ground for worms, crocuses were an undeniable beacon of the imminent spring and a reminder that growth and renewal are always possible, even when the winter has been long and bleak.

I know that every life has ebbs and flows, ups and downs, dark winters and jubilant springs. I know this in my head, the rational part of my brain that manages my expectations and helps me steer a course to my goals. But when you're in the low times, the times when all you see is grey and it stretches ahead of you without an end in sight, it's hard to fathom what it will be like when you aren't in that endless winter. For many years, it was hard for me to imagine being comfortable in my own skin, hard to imagine feeling light again. I made mistakes that spiralled me further down, my inner compass broken, pointing me farther into the snowy woods instead of out into the sunny fields.

Sometimes change happens all at once, dramatic and jarring. Sometimes hope appears like a crocus in the snow and reminds you that spring is just around the corner. My winter ended like that...first some crocuses, then daffodils, then tulips. Except it was me finding Unitarian Universalism, meeting John, and moving to California...and suddenly it was spring and my life was in bloom again.

That's what those pictures on the beach really are: they are my testament to my renewal and my celebration of this springtime in my life. Those beach shots are my appreciation for the love and light in my life, knowing where I was and how hard I've worked to get where I am now. I am joyful and grateful and that has manifested itself into a series of pictures I've taken over the last two years of John and I at the beach.

We all have things that give us hope. Listening to the ocean waves, hearing a child laugh, taking a run...all of these things can make us feel that glimmer of hope and a sense of renewal. Whether you need a break from a bad day or a spark of light in a long dark period, we need to be vigilant to notice the things that bring us joy and raise us from the low times.

And while I know, like any good Game of Thrones fan, that Winter is Coming, as it always is, these pictures that I take will be my reminder of what springtime looks like and my incentive to weather the cold, grey days because sunshine and flowers, probably crocuses, will soon reappear.

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