“Life in Full Bloom,” column for Feb. 18, 2014

On this fine winter day, when much of the country is an icebox, I know I shouldn’t complain. I can sit outside, feel the sun on my face and not get one bit of frostbite.

But I’m just going to say it: I am weary of winter. Depending on where you live, you might be even wearier of it than I am.

I live in the Mojave Desert on a hill overlooking Las Vegas. My family is scattered between the mountains of the Carolinas and the coast of California.

In the west, they are finally getting some desperately needed rain. In the east, they are buried beneath a blanket of snow. Meanwhile, here in the desert, we are basking in a balmy, 70-degree, spring-like day.

I say “spring-like,” because it’s not really spring. It just looks like it. Much like the ceilings of casinos on the Strip that are painted to make you think it’s daytime when in fact it’s the middle of the night and you ought to be asleep instead of walking around losing money.

“Spring-like” doesn’t fool me. I know any minute now winter could rear its icy head and slap us with a blast of freezing temps or howling winds or even snow.  Yes, it snows in the desert. But not today.

This morning I sat outside talking on the phone with my rain-soggy kids in California, and my frostbit sister in South Carolina, whose Jeep is almost axle-deep in snow. I’m no stranger to nasty weather. Rain, thunder, hail, lightning, blizzards, tornados. You name it, I’ve known it.

As a child, I’d lie awake at night listening to the Emergency Broadcast System on the TV in the living room issue the latest threat of death and destruction. It was way more exciting than Christmas. I loved it.  I still do. Preferably from afar.

But something happens every year about this time. In the dead of winter, with not a bloom in sight, I start looking for spring. I blame my grandmother.

Growing up, I spent most spring breaks with her on her farm in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Once, when I was 8 or so, I said, “Why do they call it spring break? It still feels like winter.”

She studied me for a minute, then said, “Spring is where you find it. Let’s go take a look.” In the basement, she pulled out a pair of old rubber boots. “Put these on,” she said. Then we each grabbed a walking stick and with that we were off.

You could not outwalk my grandmother. The woman never tired. Tromping along through patches of snow, I barely kept up. We followed a pig trail, zig-zagging up the mountain from the farm to the top of a ridge.

Finally, she stopped. “There,” she said. “There’s your spring.” She pointed to a tree all covered in pink blooms like little puffs of cotton candy on sticks.

I wish you could’ve seen it.

“It’s a dogwood,” she said. “It blooms every year whether we’re around to see it or not. It’s a promise. You can count on it.”

That tree became a ritual, a promise I counted on. Every spring we went looking for it and every time we found it in all its glory, in full bloom.

When I grew up and moved away, I carried the memory of that tree and its promise with me from the mountains of North Carolina, to the coast of California, to a hill in the desert overlooking Las Vegas.

My grandmother has been gone for years. Her farm was sold and the ridge above it became a subdivision. I don’t know if the dogwood survived. But it still blooms, without fail, in my memory.

Sometimes in the dead of winter it helps to remember the promise I learned as a child. Life persists in spite of us. The Earth and all its winter-weary souls are reborn every spring, every day, every moment.

Just when we think life will never come again, a tree blooms on a mountain or in memory.

It’s a promise. You can count on it.

Keep looking. It will find you.

 

Comments

  1. weldon says:

    Happy Birthday!! I sure do love your columns!

  2. Jana says:

    I love your perspective on life and its finer things (and not so finer things!) You are so right, spring came one day here in north central Kansas (90 miles north of Salina where you spoke and my husband and I listened, thoroughly enjoying the whole time!) and the very next day we had blizzard conditions in the morning and sunshine that melted the snow by afternoon. The longer spring holds off the more house cleaning I will get done. When it warms up, out we go to enjoy it! By the way, Happy Birthday! and keep writing!

  3. Naomi Smith says:

    Hi Sharon,
    Just wanted to wish you a very “Happy Birthday” and tell you again how much I enjoy your columns. I hope you have a wonderful day on your birthday and a great year ahead filled with many blessings.

  4. Katharine aschweriner says:

    I have enjoyed your column for several years. I confess that when I am pressed for time on a Sunday when your column appears, I skip the news and choose you. I wrote to you once before with a criticism and I regret that – your sentimental spirit rises above anything I could find fault with. I just wanted to wish you a Happy Birthday and many happy returns of the day! I am in snowy Pennsylvania where we are buried under lots of heavy snow, but, this morning I saw a robin in my yard and I heard birds singing in spite of the icy cold weather! Spring is one month away- we plan to celebrate its arrival, this year especially. Hope your birthday is a day of celebration and the year ahead full of joy. -Katharine Schweriner

  5. Joyce says:

    I love those dogwoods too! Also loved your comparing winter there to the ceiling of a casino. Nice.

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