THE WAY THE WORLD HAS BEEN these last few years, it’s all too easy to find ourselves feeling whipsawed by events, not only in the broader world, but sometimes within our own personal worlds as well. I even feel whipsawed by the weather—in typical PNW summer fashion here, after being a scorching 93 degrees yesterday afternoon, it’s 68 today!
So, how do we cope when we’re having trouble gracefully adjusting to change or—let’s be honest—everything just seems a bit too much?
Times like this make me realize that I need to start paying attention to the “small” details in my life. It feels counterintuitive—that paying attention to the small things can help when the “big” things feel overwhelming, but I find that it’s true. And the paying attention part is important too. Simone Weil said,
“Attention is the rarest and purest form of generosity.”
When I’m out of sorts, it’s this kind of generosity I need to give myself.
Feeling restless, I took myself on a walk around the garden. I think one of the most comforting things about the garden is that it’s a constant microcosm of change. Yesterday’s barely open flower is spreading its petals to the sun today, while the flower that was perfectly at its peak yesterday is already starting to droop. On my walk, I caught a surprising glint of red in the strawberry patch; when I lifted the sprawling leaves, I found a handful of ripe strawberries the slugs hadn’t yet devoured and picked them to enjoy with my morning yogurt and granola.
After one of the longest-feeling winters ever, I’m rich in roses at the moment—the real, less-than-perfect kind with raindrop-stained outer petals and delicious scents I’m always trying to describe to myself. Is that lemony strawberries or more of a peachy-citrus? Cutting some roses, putting them in a blue Mason jar, and setting them on my desk where their sweet, musky scents occasionally reach my nose is giving me a huge lift and reminding me that despite the cool gray day, summer isn’t over yet.
One of my very favorite roses is a whole meditation on change packed into one plant—it’s even in its name: Rosa chinensis mutabilis. My botanical Latin is not the strongest, but chinensis refers to the fact that the rose originated in China, and mutabilis, from which we get our word mutable, is simply another word for change. In earlier historical eras like the Renaissance, when human lives were so much shorter, mutability (synonyms include variable, alterable, fluctuating, inconsistent, unsettled, capricious—hmm, remind you of anything?) was a major theme of literature.
I’m happy to say that Rosa chinensis mutabilis lives up to its name. The buds are pale apricot pink but as they open, they darken to a deep fuchsia shade, almost burgundy. When the petals fall, the rosehips (or seed heads) appear, and unusually, it’s possible for the plant to have all three stages of growth appearing at the same time. It reminds me (especially when I’m really not feeling it) that change, in all its forms, can still be beautiful.
And, of course, having good books to read is another way of nurturing yourself, and I hope you’ll put The Walled Garden on your summer reading list! I’ve always loved the idea of “summer reading.” I still think fondly of the summer reading program at the public library in my hometown. I was so excited to ride my bike there and watch the librarian put a dot (representing another book) on “my” reading caterpillar on the library window!
This year, for my own summer reading program, I’m returning to one of the writers I enjoyed most during my teenage reading years: Mary Stewart. I wrote about my favorite of her novels, The Ivy Tree, in my last post, and now, inspired by some friends I met on Bookstagram, I’m rereading The Gabriel Hounds. Here’s a snippet teaser:
. . . And the village–just a handful of houses in a natural amphitheater sheltered from the wind–was full of fruit blossom, not only the enchanting glossy trees heavy with the waxy flowers and fruit of oranges and lemons, but the snow of pears and the sharp pink of almond, and everywhere the blush-pink of the apple, the staple fruit of the Lebanon.
I don’t know about you, but I’m ready to get on a plane! We’re reading This Rough Magic together in July and I can’t wait. There’s something about reading Mary Stewart that puts me in touch with my younger, aspiring girl detective self, and somehow that helps when I’m feeling unsettled too.
So, be kind to yourself—and if you have time, I’d love to hear about what you’re reading and doing to nurture yourself this summer!
All other photos my own