Today, I’m thinking less about gender trouble than about the weather, physical and metaphysical. I don’t know what the rest of you have been dealing with lately, but we have had, in Northeast Tennessee, the most gorgeous weather ever. Typically we move from windows closed because of the heat to windows closed because of the rain to windows closed because of the cold. But lately, wow. Windows totally open. So total, in fact, that even my neighbors, whose very loud air conditioner/heater is right off my bedroom and is always, always, always on, have it off. So even on nights when I would leave my windows open, or days when I would sit out on my “bird porch” just off my bedroom, I am disinclined because of the rattle and hum of that stinking air conditioner, which I can hear much more clearly now that, $4500 later, the horrendous sounds coming from my own ex-air conditioner are gone. So no throwing stones at glass houses here. I have had such an unbelievably stressful month that I swear if I didn’t have the fresh air coming in my windows at home and work lately, I’d be losing it. Like really losing it. I’m actually considering losing it anyway just for good measure.
What also has me thinking about weather is the fact that I was influenced by my friend Lisa Haney-Johnson who planted her first pansies recently, to plant some pansies myself and get a little flora going for the fall and winter. After seeing the pic of her potted pansies on Facebook, I went out that day and bought and planted three pots of my own. I hear they are low maintenance, which is good because I’m better in the idea stage of life’s projects than in the execution stage. I love thinking about, researching, buying, and planting flowers. I start to fade after that. But the thing that interested me most about planting pansies is their hardiness in cold weather. I welcome the change of the season, but I do feel the loss of flowers, and mums don’t do it for me so much. I will enjoy looking through the glass door onto my deck to see flowers in otherwise no-flower weather.
Since I decked my deck with flower pots this past Sunday, and as I’ve been trying to cope with absurdly heavy work responsibilities, helping my mother with her finances, and helping my daughter to navigate the end of her teens and face her twenties, I’ve been thinking about the metaphor of winter flowers. Those pansies have no idea of the role they are likely to play in my ability to keep moving forward despite the harsh psychological climate in which I sometimes live and work. They represent the ways in which there are parts of my life that can flourish, despite the atmospheric conditions that surround me, if I could just tend, even moderately, to them. They represent the need to look out the window now and again, rather than focus on only the details within my immediate reach—if there’s no beauty where you stand, look to where there is some and center on that for a bit. They pull my attention to the life growth that is happening no matter what, for me and for my children. They pull my attention, too, to the outside more generally where all kinds of work is going on in the garden beds all winter long, beneath the surface, and not just in spite of the winter but because of it. And this reminds me of the ways in which much growth in fact requires periods where things die or are cut back or covered over. They make me think about the value of cultivating a life, of mindful attention to beauty and life aesthetics, and of enduring. As I look out onto the deck this morning, and thinking of all that symbolism, I think I’ll choose not to lose it afterall.