Nature, indeed life in general, is never static. It moves in cycles – of darkness and light, death and renewal, grief and hope. Over this past month many people, here in Brisbane and elsewhere, have been flooded – by loss as well as love – as described in my last post. Thoughts of renewal came to me as I sat on the steps of a recently flooded house, taking a brief rest after a full day of scrubbing. The sun was still bright, its heat waning as the afternoon shadows lengthened. We had just finished the final clean of one room of the house.
One of the owners of the house, a dear friend, was curled up on a chair in the corner of the repainted room, enjoying the stillness, feeling the light breeze from the window on her cheek. As she gazed out through squeaky clean windows towards the new growth on the trees and bushes she glimpsed bright red amongst the green. It was the first new flower since the inundation. A bright red rose blooming on a bush that had recently been totally submerged in muddy river water.
Although a long road lies ahead, for that family and others, before life can retain its normal rhythms, the rose, green shoots, clean glass, fresh air and smell of roses signalled hope of renewal. The moon is full tonight as I write – another cycle of waxing and waning. The light came in through my window last night, flooding the bedroom with its glow, as I lay awake worrying about how best to support those I love who have suffered loss.
I suddenly remembered a story I heard the other day, in that synchronous way that ideas often turn up when you need them if you can take time to pause. It was about how butterflies develop the strength in their wings that they need to fly from their struggle to emerge from their cocoon. I don’t know how true it is but it reminded me of what I know from my own past experience; that it was from the depths of grief and despair that I developed abilities I didn’t realise I had. It is in the struggles of life that we find our strengths, learn to spread our wings and develop resilience. And the essence of resilience is the ability for renewal.
Renewal may be required in all areas of everyday life, not just after tragedies. Coping with everyday working life with integrity and humanity, especially in caring professions such as education and health, requires a continuing ability for renewal. Parker Palmer, an educator and researcher, provides inspirational examples of courage and renewal for professionals that are applicable to all aspects of life. An awareness of our own strengths and weakness and an ability to develop insight from failures and disappointments enables us to renew our energy and ongoing commitment to life.
So right now I’m grateful for that rose and its message of renewal and for the reminder that everything changes – good times or bad times, nothing lasts forever – that’s life.