I’VE BEEN BUSY WRITING production notes for the upcoming audiobook of The Walled Garden (so exciting!), so I haven’t had a lot of time to think about what to write here. It’s January in the Pacific Northwest and though the weather continues cold and raw, there are tiny signs that the garden is starting to stir to life. I was totally elated last weekend to discover the first few snowdrops of the year poking up from a scruffy-looking pot of dead scented geraniums and drooping violas on my deck.

In the Language of Flowers, snowdrops mean Hope, and at this wintery time of year and after two years of this ongoing pandemic nightmare, hope is something that often feels in short supply. I’m always comforted when I see signs that nature is oblivious to such world events but continues to thrum to the beat of its own secretive rhythms.

Though the roses and hydrangeas in my garden look like collections of dead sticks that will never bloom again, the camellias have fat, pale green buds, the tulip tree and star magnolia have slim silvery buds that look like pussy willows, and there are sturdy green shoots starting to poke up all over the garden. There’s an especially sweet self-seeded cyclamen blooming in bright magenta pink between the mossy stones on the patio, and I even saw a yellow primrose (definitely slug-eaten, but still) blooming in the herb garden.

Since it’s not raining today (for once), I just got up from my desk and went outside to see what else I could find—and I was amazed! Though I spent two hours last weekend hacking back their huge, jagged-edged leaves, I’d forgotten the hellebores are already blooming in shades of white, pink and burgundy. Not to mention the sarcococca, its dark green leaves covered in wispy white flowers with that elusive scent that you sometimes catch on the breeze this time of year and can’t quite identify.

Till you go back inside and suddenly realize, it’s the smell of early SPRING starting to stir.

I even found some scilla blooming in the palest blue in a pot of fritillarias (not yet in bloom) under the honeysuckle trellis!


Who would have thought my shriveled heart

Could have recovered greenness?

asked my favorite Renaissance poet, George Herbert, in his poem, The Flower.


It was gone

Quite underground; as flowers depart

To see their mother-root, when they have blown,

Where they together

All the hard weather,

Dead to the world, keep house unknown.


We all have our seasons of wintering underground “keeping house unknown.” We may look lifeless from the outside, but we’re actually replenishing and gathering our energy for a new season of flowering that hasn’t arrived yet.

So, go gently, my friends. Snug in by the fire with pots of TEA and books while the tempests rage outside. And when they stop, go out, breathe the fresh air, and look for tiny signs of new life. Whether we can see it or not, spring is coming.

I want to give my friend George Herbert the last words:


And now in age I bud again,

After so many deaths I live and write;

I once more smell the dew and rain,

And relish versing. Oh, my only light,

It cannot be

That I am [s]he

On whom they tempests fell all night.


I just have to add that I FINALLY figured out how to add my own photos to these posts, so hurray! (You’ve probably realized I’m not the most techy person in the world …)

I’d love to hear about what you’re doing to find hope right now!