December 21, 2013. 11:11 CST. The temperature hovers precipitously close to freezing. A chilling rain soaks my work coat and beads on my camera as I walk through the garden to welcome the new season at the precise moment of the winter solstice. My leather boots grow darker and wetter, an audible squish, pop with each muddy step.
Water droplets gather at the tips of the last resilient vestiges of autumn. Trapped in a struggle between cohesion and gravity, the droplets hesitate long enough to become the garden’s icy adornment.
The red, yellow and purple whips of dappled willow intersect in jeweled texture, diamonds refracting the muted overcast. I examine their chaotic beauty, barely able to decipher the individual branches from the whole, a natural Escherian work of art.
Upon close inspection, each droplet grows into a frozen yet morphing snapshot of its surroundings. The reflection is completely dependent on my perspective, shifting as I shift, an ephemeral view all mine, made permanent only through my lens.
Every surface in the garden slowly succumbs to the slow creep of ice, even the rusted iron dragonfly that seems cold, grounded and lonely these first minutes of winter. Inferring an impossible sentience, I wonder if it’s warmly remembering the bounty of summer as it bears down for dormancy.
The beautyberry fruit that remain dangle as clusters of diamond-encased amethysts against the rich, brown background of sedum, grasses and wood mulch revealed by the retreating snow. The fruit are a food source for overwintering birds; their winter-long attrition is well underway.
I turn the last corner of the garden and make an admission to the air around me. I prefer when the change of seasons catches a few of autumn’s last rosebuds seemingly unfulfilled. They are my reminder that many of life’s efforts never reach the outcome we expect, but offer us pause, reflection and value nonetheless. They are not victims, but rather creations, of circumstance.
As winter commences, I wonder this: If we accept them for what they are, rather than what they are not, are we not both more fulfilled?