Roses…the art of life

Roses…the art of life

Where are the songs of Spring? Ay, where are they?

Think not of them, thou hast thy music too,-

While barred clouds bloom the soft-dying day,

And touch the stubble-plains with rosy hue” John Keats

It is that time of year when we transition into the cold and darkness of Winter. In the garden that signifies many things. Recently my dad and I pruned a multitude of rose bushes. Well he did, expertly, and I was his novice student. He is known for his beautiful roses at home.  My dad has a true green thumb, and spends many hours in the garden. I have been known to be not so handy in my garden travails allowing many a plant to meet an all too soon demise. So  it was with a newfound curiosity and desire to learn the art of green life. 

The pruning allowed us to observe the sound of the gentle rain in the garden. The quietude and stillness made this experience truly enjoyable, coupled with the crispness of the cooler afternoon air. Over the summer, the roses had provided me with hours of glorious scent, of delightful colour. Now, in the waning into true Winter, watching them take their final bow towards their ephemerality was true beauty.  It reminds me of the cycles of life and death, allowing the full nature of transformation to be present, from the arrival of the first blushing bud until the last of the petals fall.

I have been contemplating my new instructions to rose pruning and feel that these lessons may also apply to life. Surprisingly, over the past few weeks, I have given this advice to people who are searching for the ultimate rose pruning. Here are my dad’s guidelines on how to prune roses, wonderfully advised in his gentle tone of voice, filled with patience.

Cut away the old flowers first.
Start with what you can see easily and cut them away.Take off the old roses, the leaves, in order to see beyond the wildness of the rose bush. Take time to look at the plant and see how it is structured, instead of being in the midst of the plant. Step back and have a look at it from all angles until you can see the whole of the plant and get to know it and what shape it might take.  
Not to be too hasty at the start when we haven’t truly seen what shape it is we would like to develop. Give it the space to allow it to unfold. Being patient that it is the first step in the process and it may not yet be clear what to do next.

Cut away anything that is growing on the inside. We are looking to make the rose bush circular. 

Cutting away the branches on the inside. Some looked so lovely that I didn’t want to cut them at first. They were not part of the roses plan to grow into its envisaged shape. Such as when things look beautiful on the surface, but they do not serve us anymore and we need to let them go. They are not for our highest purpose, and may lead us into thorny situations in the future.

Cut away anything that is crossing over into the middle of the bush.

This step entails cutting away that which has grown over what needs to be bare. Cutting a branch that will later interfere with the growth of a stronger branch…a healthier one. In modern times, we often have so many things going on, and not always enough time to have clarity on all that occupies us.  To cut away those things in life that cross us, that keep us “busy” and “doing” and that stop us from breathing and Being. “At this deep level we can then create the life we want especially when all of our “branches” are going in the right direction. We can harness and maintain our energy by being clear of what our intention is.

Prune to a third of its original size. Making a firm cut just above a new bud. This might seem a lot, but roses like a good prune (It might look harsh) They will grow back. And flower.

To me this last guideline is all about trust. A third? Really? It seems a lot. Apparently so. 
There has been many times in my life when I have “pruned” my life. Just after it is done, I have had a feeling of slight discomfort, tinged with regret: “oh, perhaps I trimmed too much-it looks so bare and empty”. To me this stage is knowing and trusting new opportunities will enter a vacuum. The roses need it in order to grow anew. And amazing opportunities often replace what had been removed.

Winter is a time of introspection, of shorter days and longer nights. It is a wonderful time to observe what is going on internally and make changes that suit us on a deep level. We benefit from this time of introspection to gain clarity and scope out possibilities for the time ahead.

In life, we need to create space, especially if life feels too full. On a physical level, when we have an internal empty space, it can fill. The breath fully exhaled creates a vacuum in the lungs, creating room for the next inhale. We can then trust the new breath will enter into our body easily. We can surrender fully to this breath as it enters at a profound level.
When there is emotional space, it too creates room for the new, whether it be new romantic love, friends, hobbies, a new passion, or something old that is new again. We cannot always do this from a place of busy, overwhelm or overflow. Creating space for new growth. It is a time for searching what makes us happy and excited and what makes our hearts glad.
Space and release on a mental level is needed too. It is the basis of meditation and mindfulness. It is the clearing out of old thoughts, of becoming aware of what our thought space is doing. New thoughts can arrive, creating feelings of aliveness and inspiration. We benefit from this deep level of surrender. Of lettting go, and feeling into the next transition. Knowing that we will be supported. “Leap, and the net will appear”.

Gardening together was a beautiful experience. Metaphorically, it is great to get a perspective on one’s own life by a person we trust. Only we can make choices and decisions regarding our inner lives. However, discussion and advice can assist with how to “prune” ourselves in the best direction, and with the most amount of love.  

So in the midst of this chilly Winter, there is hope and trust for the Spring whilst acknowledging that it is still a deeply inward time… a feeling of waiting for the next growth to appear and to be filled by new delights. And the beautiful anticipation of the scent of roses filling the air with joy.