Mar 2, 2014

Blooming in Winter

When I approached the summit of Mt. Hakusan, I offered up the sacrifice of complaining. I've been more mindful when my mood turns moments away from gratefulness and into complaint. This has been especially hard in winter, when everything is cold not only outside but also inside, because Japanese buildings don't usually have insulation or central air. Everyday I wear my winter coat inside my apartment, blasting two heaters to warm up.

One way to "insulate" the large living room windows is to tape bubble wrap over them. It's totally normal in these parts. Once I taped the giant plastic rolls over my windows, they stopped letting in light, so I never opened the drapes anymore. Not that there was any sun to let in anyway. It was already dark when I left school.

Then, one day in February, the sun was out. I opened the drapes of my bedroom windows and discovered a wonderful surprise - my backyard bushes had bloomed into open-petaled red flowers. They popped up everywhere. They bloomed even in the coldest, most adverse weather conditions of the year.
"In the language of flowers, red means determination." - Trigun

I was negative about many of my experiences in Japan because I was cold - missing sunlight, activity, simple walks - without knowing that was what I was missing. Every winter feels like it will never end; every spring feels like the first one.

Then the sun came out. I listened to the 7th graders practice the piano in the music room, and it moved me out of time. I've lowered the amount of layers I wore from three sweaters to two. One Japanese teacher said they heard the first songbird that morning. I still wear my winter coat inside my apartment, but now I don't have to blast the heater to get it to warm up.

I look at my backyard, abloom with winter flowers, and feel hope. Spring is coming - the time of new growth from the seeds you planted last autumn. I planted gratefulness. I'm pruning away the weeds of complaint and negativity. My garden won't be perfect; it's the tenderness to accept it as it is that's real compassion, the ultimate cultivation.


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