The Life and Times of Florence Knitingale

Monday, March 05, 2007

Waxing My Philosophical

March in Seattle is a crapshoot, offering up anything from watery sunlight to torrential downpours to rare snow that remains just long enough to boggle the mind and then melts away quickly, as though embarrassed to have arrived so late. Today the sky is the blue of a baby's eyes, scattered with puffy clouds, and the sun is casting summerish shadows on the absolutely irrepressible green. I looked in what passes for a garden for me (remember--I'm the one with the black thumb...plants fear me, and rightfully so) and realized that there were hyacinths already shoving their way through the soil, and a lone daffodil bravely stretching skyward, one clenched bud already straining to unfurl. And it struck me then, that nature always remembers how and when to be reborn. Every year. Every time.

That rebirth thing...I'm not always so good at that. I have an unfortunate ability to be stuck in the barebranched winter of my fears or my old hurts or failures. I seek that greening even as I cling with both hands to the bleak landscape of pain, or uncertainty. I think that perhaps it is not okay to push forth to some new sun because I have failed at things or, more likely, not lived up to the impossible expectations that I've packed onto my shoulders over and over and over. And yet, every single tulip in my garden fell prey last year to nothing more than life itself; they bloomed but faded, offering nothing for most of the year other than the knowledge that they were curled waiting in the dark soil, not so much as a single fledgling stem to mark their places. Still, they come exuberantly back. They don't apologize for any past incarnation; they just burst through the soil and tip their faces upwards and know that every single shiny petal is as perfect as need be....and that they are each one enough.

The trees, too. Our trees got beat to hell this winter, and many of them lost limbs and tops. They are scarred by their journeys and yet, they are already rebuilding the lost parts, reaching higher. And they are green. Some of them are even breaking out in dozens of fragile little buds, as if the world were not dangerous. As if they were not afraid. They know something I tend to let slide: that the broken parts only come back if you put them back out there. Without the light, cradled protectively away from all that might cause harm, they wither and die. They'll lose parts again, no question--this is the Pacific Northwest and the winds always come back. But there's loss, and there's loss. Some loss is just the price of living; some is the terrible replacement for it. I confess, I've been guilty in my life of embracing that replacement.

At the end of March, I get to push my own bare arms upwards. I get to lay my unleaved self out for all to see when the temptation to just give in to winter is so very strong. I get to offer my words and my thoughts to a panel of strangers and hope they see into my soul and believe that I should take the next step to my dreams, even as I question my own worthiness of them. I'd like to think I'm as smart as a tree, that I can recognize the futility of trying to be completely safe and completely free of failure in a world and a life that are so gloriously, perfectly imperfect. The dead tree on the burn pile hasn't failed in a very long time....but, you know. The big tree in front has a bunch of hard knots where branches used to be...but also a whole bunch of supple green new ones. I want to see the value of my own new growth, and know that those old stories are just that: old stories. Things that happened. Things I've outlasted.

In other words: the world is once more pulling itself out of sleep and making itself new. It's millions of years old. If it's not too tired yet of the growing and the painful dying, I probably shouldn't be, either. There are ferns under my trees out back that keep growing even in the shadows, and rhubard that comes back over and over, even though I invariably shred it with the lawn mower. Everywhere I look, the world is braver than I've sometimes been. Okay. So, just for this spring, I will embrace the process of becoming new. I won't look at what's old except to see how many times I've won--regardless of what might have marked me, nothing's beat me. I'll turn in my application and my recommendations and my essay and I'll know that it's enough. I may not get into nursing school...but I'll get to be new again just the same. And whatever's coming is so much more than the curled up spot in the soil where no one can hurt me and nothing can get me.....and nothing whatsoever grows the slightest bit.

Remember the line in "Finding Nemo", where Dory says that it's strange for Marty to wish that nothing would happen to Nemo "...cause, if nothing ever happens to's anything going to happen to him?" Love that line.

Now I just need to be as smart as an old tree and a cartoon fish.


  • At 5:02 PM, Anonymous Lilly said…

    Ms. K -
    I am printing this out, just to keep. Thanks. (and by the way, is the daffodil pouting because it is not the tulip?)

  • At 7:01 PM, Blogger knottykitty said…

    I am extremely confident that your application and essay will be MORE than good enough! And if by some chance you do not get in, rather than a failure, it will be a sign that you belong someplace else in the future that is better for you and more worthy of your talents! Don't worry, your new branches will grow where they are supposed to be....Keeping good thoughts for you and best of luck in your application process. :) deb

  • At 12:10 AM, Anonymous angie Cox said…

    Have to agree with Lily . We lost two of Reading's oldest trees this year ( due to some sort of rot) .Trees Holly tells me James 2nd's men hid in them to fire at the enemy during the "Glorious Revolution" . It is such a sad sight as the stumps remain . The "tree" I hug and lean on survived near death only a few weeks ago and is growing stonger . I need the sight of spring out of my window right now to remind me of re-birth .Whatever branch of life you are taken along Florence I know you will be strong and we will all "watch" as you grow and smile.

  • At 5:09 AM, Blogger Marianne said…

    Yeah, it sounds amazingly easy enough doesn't it? For humans though, it takes courage, being dauntless.
    Ms. K, you are a brave soul, among other things, and courage you do have.

  • At 9:32 AM, Blogger Charity said…

    I hear you, Ms. K; very well said.

    Don't forget another piece of wisdom from Dory, "Just keep swimming"! Or, er, knitting? :0)

  • At 11:19 AM, Blogger Kim said…

    That was a beautiful essay, Ms. K. It reminds me of a line from a song called "Wake Up and Dream" by Megon McDonough ... the line says, "Ships are safe within the harbor, but is that what ships are for?"

    I love your analogy even more, though. Thank you.

  • At 11:56 AM, Anonymous Em said…

    No fair making me nearly cry whilst at work, Ms. K.! You have a great gift with words, and have managed to articulate many of the feelings and processes I've been dealing with lately as well... Thank you for sharing. Like you, I will try to embrace both the old and the new, and be as smart as a tree :)

  • At 1:12 PM, Blogger Jo said…

    I want to be a tulip.


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