January is upon us and because I am in South Central Texas that means the weather is quite mild. I’m outside, watering, taking in all of the different shades of brown – umber, tawny gold, dark cinnamon – that always take over the gardens during this time of the year. Every now and then a spray from the hose dislodges a clump of dead leaves and as they skitter to the side, I see shocking shoots of green.
Once more, I am reminded that this is how life happens…it’s not as simple as the life/death/life cycles we have been taught. It is more and deeper. The life of last season makes the life of this season possible. Those dead leaves that skittered to the side have spent all Autumn enriching the soil with their nutrients while at the same time creating shelter for the budding plants under their cover protecting tender shoots from harsher Winter elements.
January is a tricky time, as all liminal times are. For many, it has its own kind of busy-ness with the casting off of the old and the calling in of the new, the resolutions made – and sometimes broken – before the month has come to a close. It is also an opportunity to look back over the spread-out blanket of the previous year that has only just come to a close. Doing this reveals a number of colors and interesting threads, but it’s also easy during this process to find things to feel bad about.
Easy to find goals you didn’t achieve.
Easy to find places where you came up short.
Easy to find the dreams that didn’t manifest.
We KNOW that fixating on them can make us feel rotten – and hollow out the energy needed for our dreams for the year that is to come. We know all of this and still we focus on the places of loss and lack.
Let me invite you, not to shift perspective or framework, but rather to listen. Listen to my garden and the land where you live too. Let me invite in a deeper understanding for all of us…one that shows you how dead leaves and dream tending are actually made for each other.
Observe in the foliage how the goals you didn’t achieve in the last year, the places of falling short…or falling apart, and the dreams that didn’t manifest are all dead leaves right now. They are feeding your soil, feeding your soul, making richer humus. They are offering protection and sustenance to the new life, new growth, new promise and potential that you are carrying oh so gently into the New Year. These so-called failures or lacks are not time wasted, they were needed moments forming the momentum that has carried you to this one, right now, reading these words. Look at the places where things grow and die back and lie fallow, and then bloom once more. Listen to them as they tell you that the mistakes made and battles lost over the last year are actually blessed incubators like so many dead leaves, protecting your newest, sweetest, dreams.
Heed them when they tell you to stop, if you can, blaming yourself for failures that were never yours and resenting actions that really deserve a cup of gratitude.