Photo Essay: A Horticultural Meditation on Winter

For background on this meditation, go here.

You are a tender plant, all soft, green stems and leaves.  As the days grow shorter, you send all of the nourishment collected from the summer sun down into your roots, and you prepare to wait.

dandelion seeds blowing off flower
“Moving On” – Dandelion Seedhead (c) Jesse Edsell-Vetter

Your leaves yellow and crisp, until the Gardener chops them back. You are sad without your leaves.  Then, you realize that they were dead anyway. What had kept you alive no longer serves you. You let your once-beautiful leaves go.

ripened sunflower in fall
Sunflower (Helianthus annuus) in fall (c) Jesse Edsell-Vetter

The Gardener comes back and tucks you in with a blanket of straw. You nestle your roots down into the soft earth, grateful for shelter from the cold, harsh, scouring winds.

You sit in the darkness. You wait. Some days, you dream of pushing your shoots up through the soil. You hunger to feel the sun on your face, to feel your flowers opening, your seeds ripening. But you know that to spring forth now would be unsustainable. To burst out in abundance now would deplete the stores you worked hard all summer to nurture.

oriental poppy seed pod
Seed pod of Oriental Poppy (Papaver orientalis) (c) Jesse Edsell-Vetter

So for now, you rest. You dream. You sit. You dwell in your own Be-ing, grateful for the protection of the dark earth. You trust in the Gardener who sheltered you with straw, and who will keep the rabbits from your tender, new leaves when spring returns.

You don’t have to do anything to bring the spring. It will come. The Gardener loves you, and she will come, too. So, for now, for winter, you rest and you dream.

Queen Anne's Lace in snow
Queen Anne’s Lace (Daucus carota) in snow (c) Jesse Edsell-Vetter

Some days, you dream of summer, and it makes you sad for what is lost. Some days, you dream of spring, and feel lonely without the robin and the worms.

Then, you remember that it is winter, not spring or summer. And winter cannot be rushed. Only when the earth turns back to the sun will it be your time to stretch forth into the open air once again.

Queen Anne's Lace against a blue sky
Queen Anne’s Lace (Daucus carota) (c) Jesse Edsell-Vetter

But you remember that, after your long rest, after months of nearly imperceptible changes within you, a time will come when you are ready to unfurl your leaves and bloom once again.

poppy in bloom - close-up
Oriental poppy (Papaver orientale) (c) Jesse Edsell-Vetter

About this post:

Across cultures and religions, residents of the northern hemisphere have struggled to make meaning of these final weeks before the winter solstice — weeks of cold and darkness before the days start to lengthen again. The seasons of Chanukah and Advent/Christmas both contain symbols of this progression from darkness into light. Whether we are religious, spiritual, or simply aware of the movements of nature, this time is an opportunity to reflect on the role of darkness, stillness, quiet, and waiting in our own lives, as symbolized by the plant world around us.

About the author:

Carolyn Edsell-Vetter is a former student of comparative religion and M.Div.-turned-horticulturist. She usually blogs on the more mundane topics of sustainable design and organic landcare.  Carolyn wrote this meditation as part of a Shabbat service she led during the lead up to Chanukah. Photos are by her husband, Jesse. More about him at JEVPhotography.