This morning, on a way to visit someone, I passed a grass bank which a mere week ago had been vibrant with cheery daffodil flowers, heralding spring. Today, though, it was a mildly despondent sight, with petals – where they remained, as though clinging to their past splendour – were now brown and dangling dejectedly as though defeated. Their glory days are past.
Now there is a curious thing about daffodils. My instinct is to remove the mess, cut leaves and stems at the base, out of sight until next year. Yet any gardener will tell you that this is foolish. Whilst the spent flowerheads are best removed, the leaves need to be left to die back naturally, allowing goodness to be retained by the bulbs for the next spring season. The mess is necessary and nutritious.
Just as I would naturally remove everything in my desire for neatness, I can be like that in life too and I suspect (or at least hope) that I am not alone. It is not that I want my garden, or my life, pristine, sterile and potentially soulless. I don’t obsessively prune things to shape. But neither do I want weeds encroaching. The difficulty is that if I’m too ruthless removing the mess I perceive as my enemy, I may be depriving the border of some hidden gems that had been waiting to emerge.
In life, we sometimes want things tidy and organised. Yet this may, if we are not careful, leave no space for spontaneity, for an unexpected and joyous surprise. And what about those emotions which we may experience as messy, because they threaten our well-ordered exterior with unwelcome tears or other unbidden expressions of our inner life? Might they too, if we let them be for a spell, also prove more life-giving than we may fear?
Perhaps today’s mess may yet be next year’s growth.