Diane Miessler: When life gives you winter, notice the daffodils
This week I wrote a not-gardening column, because it’s cold out there.
Here we are in what feels like the dead of winter, even though I know the days are actually getting longer.
I’m driving around feeling sorry for myself like I do when I get melancholy because I have to, like, work, and vacuum, and pay bills, and my garden is under six inches of snow and there’s nothing to do out there when I want to get outside. Then I heard an amazing interview on the radio.
It was with a guy named Ross Gay, who wrote something called The Book of Delights, which I’m thinking probably everybody should buy. For a year, he wrote an essay a day about things that caused delight: gardens, a high five from a random teenage girl, even bindweed.
Then he started talking about how we’re constantly doing “subtle caretaking:” holding the door for people, picking up something someone dropped, stopping to help at an accident, helping someone up from a chair. I gradually went from a happy little cry to full-on blubbering. I’m not sure why, but it had something to do with my recent feelings of disappointment in humanity, and in myself – our tendency to sometimes be small, and mean, and vindictive. His point was that our default mode is kindness.
To my mind, the jury’s still out on which is our default mode, but he reminded me of the many kindnesses that happen on a daily basis and that, despite my sometimes petty, cranky self, I’m mostly kind, mostly compassionate, sometimes altruistic. And I blubbered a little.
I continued on to visit a couple patients; one had a messy house that smelled like cats, while the other’s was fancy, immaculate. I fell in love a little with them both for their human wonderfulness, as often happens—not always, but usually—when I’m my best self.
I realized I was happy, and that even though I sometimes want to crawl back into bed with my electric blanket until spring, the quickest road from sadness to joy is human interaction – the kind that involves compassion instead of scrutiny.
I got home and saw daffodils poking up through the snow. Maybe there’s hope, yet – for spring, for humanity. For us all.
Diane Miessler is a nurse, certified permaculture designer, and compulsive gardener. Her book, “Grow Some Soil: Harness the Power of Microbes for Your Best Garden Ever,” will be published this fall. She lives in Nevada City with her husband and an ill-mannered chihuahua.
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