Winter will soon be pressing in on us here in this Indiana valley and today seemed like the perfect day to make plans for spring. An afternoon stop at my local home improvement store turned up packages of colorful anemones, purple crocus and an array of red, orange and yellow tulips. Add those bulbs to a cluster of Madonna lilies donated by a friend, and I had my work cut out for me.
Armed with a garden spade, I tugged at wilted hosta leaves and pulled out clusters of invasive violet plants, digging to the prescribed depth to create a soft bed for these new additions to my garden. Carefully pressing the bulbs, pointed end up, I thought about the promise of color and fragrance held in each little orb. The bulbs, especially the hard, brown anemone, are rather ugly and not very inspiring. But I know the secrets they hold and, come spring, I know we will enjoy the surprise of a splash of fresh color following the brown, grey and white of winter.
Anticipation is good for the soul, I believe. Looking forward to a special event, making plans for a new experience, patiently awaiting a new life…..the time spent in expectant anticipation is nearly as rewarding as the “gift” itself.
When I was young, I loved counting down the days to Christmas, calculating the weeks before my next birthday. As Christmas drew near and packages began appearing under our Christmas tree, I would plop down in front of the gifts and tingle with excitement as I guessed at what each package contained. It did not matter that in a family of five children only a couple of the gifts would bear my name. Just knowing there were surprises waiting to be discovered on Christmas morning gave me joy in the weeks leading up to the holiday. It was the same with my birthday, when I would make a tidy pile of my gifts and open them slowly, carefully, savoring each one, no matter what the wrappings revealed.
Burying a ring of yellow and red striped tulips around the base of a slender maple tree on this autumn afternoon, I thought of the many things I have eagerly anticipated in my life. Beyond Christmas and birthday gifts, there have been great events such as college, my first real job, marriage.
And there were those four boys of mine, spaced out over a dozen years. As I bore each one through nine long months, I savored dreams about what they would look like, the adventures we would share together, the kind of men they would become. Even now, watching their adult lives unfold, I delight in praying for the good things that await them in the years ahead.
We rush headlong through so much of life, racing to the finish line. But, I wonder — what would happen if we took a moment to savor the joy of anticipating the “next big thing?”
I think I agree with A.A. Milne’s wise little bear, Winnie-the-Pooh. Here was a fellow who knew how to get the most joy out of life’s littlest pleasures:
Well,” said Pooh, “what I like best,” and then he had to stop and think. Because although Eating Honey was a very good thing to do, there was a moment just before you began to eat it which was better than when you were, but he didn’t know what it was called.
This winter, while snow swirls through my little garden, I’ll press my nose against the window pane in anxious anticipation of springtime. It’s “what I like best.”