We see promise this time of year, even as we head into winter. Oh, how great and beautiful, even the slightest hint of what we know will emerge in springtime.
It is a subtle beauty ... for now. Couched in tiny seeds, shaded in rich browns and black, ephemeral and hidden, flowers are all but waiting. Time will launch these pods of possibility into display.
Rarely are we appreciative of such potential. We’ve seen the last of tourists here to witness the rousing red of the maple, the deep sunset golds of the birch lining the hills above our town.
Tamarack are just making their appearance with their flaming yellows set against the hush of the forest. Small bogs and sloughs seem the ideal setting for such sights as this.
But the beauty of possibility in dormant seeds, in tiny trees now discovered that appear in the decaying underbrush, a miracle of summer really, these are all but lost.
We’ve seen the last of the hummingbird. Ducks are roused and are moving south. Fewer geese soar overhead. Soon snowflakes will stir and make their appearance near our shore.
Ice will freeze the interior lakes into silence and, except for the movement of the occasional otter, will suspend this world in inert quiet.
But possibilities hover in the wings, waiting for the breath of a warm, spring sun. The solstice will usher it in. Longer days will penetrate what now are secret openings within the woods.
Few of us are proficient at seeing the glory of what
is to be in the first germ of what is only the idea.
We are not good at looking beyond what is at first sight. We can celebrate the conclusion but rarely will anyone cheer the beginning.
Nature is good at taking the brown and dull, the small and unnoticed and, without judgment, folding it into the great tapestry.
We, I think, are rather suspect of this. We limit our reach. We wait for known success before we lift a glass. We watch and are wary until the deed is often proven and done.
But if you look, even before the winter winds come down on us, the seeds have already been released.
There are on the ground, not even buried in rich soil, are the purples and pink and whites of the lupine and other familiar wildflowers.
Unless we see beauty in possibility, we might rarely take advantage of it. The result: It can be hard to summon enthusiasm. It can be difficult to stay with an idea.
Only the few can be so in love with the end that they see through the beginnings. They somehow know that even with winter coming on, that theirs are ideas that are exceptional and important to hold onto.
A wildflower’s gift to us is unintentional. It is only striving to be what it was designed to be. Still, we all benefit.
But none of us would know that now unless we see past the dried stalk to what waits, when snowmelt first gives these expression and revival.
John Bragstad lives along the incomparable North Shore of Lake Superior. He is the author of two books: Compass Season and Nature's Poetry of Life: Who's Watching Who?
Both are available on Amazon or at our local GM bookstores.