It’s late winter in the Pacific Northwest. While spring is still a little way off, the signs of it are already starting to show in blooming snowdrops and Lenten roses.
But before that new season bursts forth, I think it wise to contemplate the power of dormancy.
Many things look dead this time of year. Denuded trees, yellowed stalks of last year’s flowers and slowly decomposing leaves decorate the January landscape.
It seems like nothing is happening… and, perhaps, that nothing ever will.
Our lives look like this sometimes too. Still, dark, and littered with the deteriorating memories of sunnier times. It can be easy to worry that it will always be like this. That our best days are behind us. That we are too late for the dream come true. Or too late to even dream at all.
Like the natural world, we need periods of dormancy. Growing demands enormous amounts of energy. Bringing something new into the world is infinitely rewarding, but it takes a lot out of us. We need those still, dark times to regroup. To rest and gather our energy for the next thing.
In lives filled with forward momentum it can be hard to remember this. Our careers demand greater output. Our children grow. Last year’s model is obsolete. It seems we are asked to always do and be more. But constant forward progress is impossible, even if we wish it otherwise. Whether we choose it for ourselves or have it forced on us by an illness or breakdown, we too need to go dormant now and then.
In the garden, what looks like death is instead a time of renewal. Roots are nourished, dead bits are shed and the whole system rests in preparation for longer days. Going dormant for a short while strengthens the plant for the next year.
So it can be for us.
How often do we find ourselves wondering “is it too late?” It’s the flip side of “am I ready yet?” This question, usually posed by a fretful mind, supposes that there is a perfect time for everything. If you miss that window, the chance is lost forever.
Instead of sinking into fear or self-pity, we can reframe the experience. We’ve gone dormant. Our creativity has quieted, in order to be restored. All is not lost, as long as we use this time wisely.
Instead of bemoaning the ideas that aren’t coming, we can nourish the roots of our creative spirit. We can fill ourselves with interesting ideas and images. We can try something new. We can listen for the whispers of interest as they stir, letting them grow as they will instead of forcing them on to our timeline.
We can be patient and loving, enjoying this season for what it is instead of trying to force ourselves into further growth.
Spring will come, but in its own time. It will be a sweeter season if you make the most of going dormant.
All pictures taken by me,
some with an iPhone and
some with a Nikon DSLR,
in the cool damp of Oregon in January.