My dear friend, Lyndon Penner, and I are each guest-blogging for each other this week. Lyndon has written on the subject of peace, and I have written a piece for his blog, ‘Jadecypress: One Voice Calling out from the Garden’ that fits within his subject matter of nature and gardening. Please visit jadecypress.wordpress.com to find more of Lyndon’s beautiful writings as well as my contribution. Lyndon Penner is a gardener, CBC columnist, environmentalist, author and teacher. It was a both an honour and a joy to collaborate with someone I deeply admire, and whose friendship I treasure.
What could be a better way to build bridges and peace in the world than for two writers who respect and admire each other to come together and collaborate? I am reminded of how CS Lewis and JRR Tolkien used to get together and compare writings and possibilities, and while I wouldn’t dream of comparing myself to these two giants of literature, I like the idea that through the ages, writers have been encouraging and inspiring and supporting one another.
Karen is a dear friend of mine, and I asked her to write a guest post for my blog. To my delight, she agreed and asked if I would write one for hers! I was thrilled to be able to do so for her, but also a little intimidated. Karen’s audience is different than my audience, and could I really write something that would appeal to her followers? I am not a flavor everyone enjoys, and that’s fine with me, but it’s also good for me to get out of my box and write something for a different group of people.
I think it’s so important that whatever we do in life, we encourage and help each other. I am always so happy to see groups of people working together for a common good, rather than to see people with a common dream at odds with one another, which is too often the case.
If you are an artist, and you paint, I think you should find other artists and encourage them in their painting. Talk about your work together. Support and build one another up. If you sing, find other singers and see what you can do together. The same for musicians. Or sculptors. Or ceramic artists. If we all worked together in our respective fields, wouldn’t the world be a better place? I have a friend named Cheryl who does the same thing for a living that I do. We are quite equally matched in terms of skills and expertise, and when I was really down and out Cheryl went through her contacts and found some extra work for me at a time when I really needed it. This is unheard of in many other professions. Chefs do not share recipes. Graphic designers do not share ideas. Yet gardeners often come together to help each other out. I know someone else who does the same work that I do, and she sees me as a threat. She is nice to me in person, but behind my back she would do anything she could to sell me up the river. I feel sorry for this woman and how insecure she is. How much better would life in our world be if we combined our collective talents rather than try to stamp out anyone who might be better than we are?
Winter is a hard time for many of us. Especially prairie dwellers. Even those of us who grew up here in 30 below and are accustomed to the cold do not necessarily enjoy it. There are different kinds of winter souls. There are some who purchase snowmobiles or cross country skis or toboggans or snowboards and just make the most of every minute. I have friends who long for snow so they can get out there and do winter sports. I am not one of those people, but I am envious of them. How, in the long, dark days of January and February (and often into March and April) can we keep the faith and go bravely forward? It is cold outside; often too cold to be outdoors, and many of us begin to feel the effects of short day light and cabin fever. It takes a stalwart and hardy person to live here. As a gardener, winter is especially hard for me because my income is severely reduced and I am usually stressing about money, but never mind that. Winter is hard because we live in a harsh land; a fact often overlooked when we consider the conveniences of “modern living”. Having gardened in the tropics, I now understand the value of winter. Winter gives my soul a period of rest. There are no weeds to pull in February. There is no grass to mow and no harvesting to be done and no insects to contend with. The trees cast long shadows as I sit by the window and at night I can hear their twiggy fingers tapping against the glass. The garden in winter is at rest. The snow is beautiful. It is peaceful. There are so many on the globe who have never seen snow. Here, we see it for so much of the year we take it for granted. The snow covers the ground, and beneath it the perennials and the small creatures are all resting, all asleep and tucked away, waiting the return of spring. Sometimes, I sense their peacefulness as they dwell in their grottoes beneath the snow and earth, and sometimes I am sure I can feel the spirits of bears and skunks and bats as they slumber in forgotten caves and tunnels in the mountain. How full and beautiful our year is because of the rest that winter brings. We have so glorified “busy” in our society that we have forgotten to rest, to be peaceful, to lie down and let the gales sweep over us. Winter reminds us to be still and to await the return of longer days and songbirds, and winter is a good teacher if we allow it to be.
Finally, the last thing I would like to remark upon is how beautiful the world is. It is so very easy to become despairing, to lose hope, to feel lost. With climate change and the tar sands and the corruption of our government (among other things), it can become so tempting to throw in the towel and feel like there is no point in even bothering with trying to make the world a better place. The world is still very much a worthwhile place to be. There are so many reasons to hope. When I speak at universities or gardening conferences, people are always asking me about native plant restoration and things they can do to help the bees. I see young people give up their seat on the bus for an elderly person. I have seen young men gallantly hold open the door for women, and I have seen strangers offer up radiant smiles to me for no other reason than we are passing each other on the street. The sun still rises, and it is lovely. The full moon is as gorgeous as it has ever been, and the stars still shine on. The ocean still offers us the songs of whales and the forests still offer us moss covered rocks to ponder and contemplate. The world is a beautiful and hopeful place, if we want it to be. As you go through your journey this week and this winter, I wish you hope and beauty. I wish you peace and collaborations, and I wish for you the knowledge that you can make a tremendous difference in this world.