The snow is all gone, the temperature has risen, and all the signs are pointing to spring close on the horizon. So hopefully that’s the last of the snowy pictures till next winter. I leave you instead with pictures of my hellebores. I have three varieties of hellebore in my garden. The flowers of Candy Love are pale pink and white, with a blush of pink veining on the outside of the petals; Pirouette flowers are a dusky pink, with darker pink veining; while my favourite is I think, Black Diamond, with striking, almost black flowers and deep red foliage. Last week they were all laden with snow, bowed down to the icy earth, so low I thought they’d never recover (see my previous post). Now the snow is gone and their cold blanket has melted away, my hellebores are standing up again. Their stems have straightened, and their heads are held high. Black Diamond stands the tallest, but Candy Love and Pirouette on their shorter stems arch gracefully. And with the promise of spring just around the corner, my spirits too have lifted.
Yesterday it snowed some more, but once again not as much as was forecast. It was still very cold, -3C, and if it still wasn’t ‘deep and crisp and even’, the earth was certainly ‘hard as iron, and water like a stone’. I defrosted the bird bath every time I had a hot drink, and the birds were very grateful. Mr and Mrs Blackbird took it in turns, and kept coming back for more. A pair of magpies stopped by, and a small flock of four starlings bickered and chattered as they filled their beaks. Some great-tits, blue-tits and long-tailed-tailed-tits flicked around from bush to bush and tree to tree, along with a tiny wren, but they didn’t join the drink queue. Most of the birds sped off as soon as they saw me with my camera, but Mr and Mrs Blackbird posed beautifully. The birds were obviously finding enough to eat, as they were only interested in the water, and largely ignored the scraps I put out. The dog happily finished those bits off later!
It snowed last night, not deep or crisp or even, but definitely snow, sprinkled across the garden like icing sugar. Although it was bright and sunny this morning it snowed some more, soft fat flakes drifting and dropping aimlessly. This afternoon it grew colder, and the snow fell like tiny hard crystals whirling madly in a biting, easterly wind. Some of the longer spikes of grass are still standing tall, but most of the lawn and flowerbeds are covered with a thin lacy blanket of snow. A few small, half-open daffodil buds, have been stopped in their tracks, as winter has returned with a vengeance. Tiny pendulous snowdrops stand straight, while pink and white hellebore flower-heads are heavily laden, bowing down to almost touch the icy cold earth. I’ve defrosted the bird bath three times today, and have been rewarded with the sight of blackbirds and pigeons grabbing a quick drink, and I spotted a wren on the trellis, and a squirrel high up in the oak tree. Despite the bitter cold, there is still life in my garden. We may not have had the snow we were expecting, but there are a few days yet of snow and below zero temperatures forecast, so who knows…..
Today I feel like a tortoise. All I want to do is pull my head in and hibernate. With a nice thick shell, and a bundle of warm hay to snuggle into, I think I’ll feel safe from everyone that wants to have a piece of me.
But no. I must get up and face the day. I cannot remain hidden away, isolated and alone. So as I go out into this new and scary day, I ask God to be my shield and defender. With Him I am safe, and with Him I can face whatever the world throws at me.
I have a number of friends going through tough times, uncertain times and incredibly sad times. And this morning I heard a song in my head, the tune and words singing inside me, so intense that I couldn’t keep them in, and the song just bubbled out. So if you too are going through hard times, uncertain times or sad times, I offer you the words of this song straight from the heart of God. I don’t remember if fully, and you will have to imagine the tune, but it went something like this:
My peace I give you, a peace beyond understanding. I give it to you freely, but you must reach out and take it. Then I will hold you safe despite the all-encompassing confusion and tumult. The world around may still be a furious tempest, but do not be afraid, you can be secure within the calm of the eye of the storm. So just reach out and take my peace, then although the turmoil and whirlwind still rage, you will be kept safe from harm.
The other morning I was on my way upstairs with a cup of tea in one hand and a pile of clothes in the other, when I felt a sudden sharp pricking in my eye. It really hurt, so I blinked hard, but to no avail. I gave my eye a good rub with the back of my hand, careful not to spill the tea; but it didn’t stop pricking. When I reached the top of the stairs, I put the tea and clothes down, switched on the light over my mirror, and had a good look in my eye. Under the bright light, I could see an eyelash, right in the corner, and with the help of a tissue, I carefully removed it. Although the eye lash was gone, my eye kept watering and felt uncomfortable for quite a while; and it reminded me that I had needed to put everything down in order to discover what was wrong, and deal with it. And I thought sometimes we can be like that. We’re holding too much, spinning too many plates, and although something hurts, we often don’t realise what it is until we stop, put everything down and give it the attention it needs. Only then can we try to sort it out.
I stand at the window looking out into a cold and blustery winter afternoon. My mind is still. I wait, expectantly, but for what? I see the wind rifling through the dead leaves in the gutter, worrying at them, tossing them high into the air with abandon, as if by the hand of an exuberant child. The clouds zip by, their shape and colour constantly shifting. Now, as I see the light begin to fail, I wonder at how the days slip by so quickly; we are half way through January, and February is already on the horizon. As the forever changing seasons move inexorably on, I realise that spring is a mere heart-beat away. I marvel at how the sun comes up each morning, although at times it is obscured by cloud; and how the moon waxes and wanes, and the tides ebb and fall. I consider how rain waters the earth, and how the sun warms it and brings forth life. And I have questions about myself; how I can be here by sheer chance, and what is the purpose of my own existence? I weigh-up the possibilities. Is all this intricate detail some great cosmic mistake, a huge coincidence or confluence of separate events? But surely not! Surely there is a creative designer and all-powerful hand behind the astounding complexity I see around me, and in me.
Then, as I wait, I sense a voice in the deep recesses of my mind. “I am here my child. I created all the wonder you see around you, and I created you. I created your inmost being, and I knit you together in your mother’s womb. You are not a mistake, you are my beautiful child. There is a purpose in your existence. Wait and see what wonderful things I will accomplish through you.”