Late winter is often particularly dark and dank. My doldrums are deep; the brief respite of sun and warmth too rare. Cranky, I  put one foot ahead of the other, get done what needs to be done, oblivious to subtle renewal around me, refusing to believe even in the possibility.

It happened today. Dawn broke bright and blinding, and I heard the fields calling, so I heeded, climbing the hill and turning my face to the eastern light, soaking up all I could. It was almost too much to keep my eyes open, as they are so accustomed to gray darkness. And then I stumbled across something extraordinary.

A patch of snowdrops sat blooming in an open space on our acreage, visible now only because of the brush clearing that was done last fall. Many of these little white, upside down flowers were planted long ago around our house and yard, but I had no idea they were also such a distance away, hiding underground. Yet, there they’ve been, year after year, harbingers of the long-awaited spring to come in a few short weeks, though covered by the overgrowth of decades of neglect and invisible to me in my self-absorbed blindness. I was astonished that someone, many, many years ago, had carried these bulbs this far out to a place not easy to find, and planted them, hoping they might bless another soul sometime somehow. Perhaps the spot marks a grave of a beloved pet, or perhaps, it was simply a retreat of sorts, but there the blossoms had sprung from their sleep beneath the covering of years of fallen leaves and blackberry vines.

It was as if I’d been physically hugged by this someone long dead, now flesh and blood beside me, with work-rough hands and dirty fingernails, a broad-brimmed hat and a satisfied smile.  I’m certain the secret gardener is no longer living, and I reach back across those years in gratitude, to show my deep appreciation for the time and effort it took to place a foretaste of spring in an unexpected and hidden place.

I am thus compelled to look for ways to leave such a gift for someone to find 50 years hence as they likewise stumble blindly through too many gray days full of human frailty and flaw. Though I will be long gone, I can reach across the years to grab them, hug them in their doldrums, lift them up, and give them hope for what is to come. What an astonishing thought that it was done for me, and in reaffirming that promise of renewal, I can do it for another.

Emily Gibson
I’m a wife, mother, farmer and family physician, living the rural life in northwest Washington state. I’ve been chronicling life on the farm for over a decade, with an emphasis on raising our family in faithful stewardship to our God and to the land we call home for the time being. My Barnstorming blog reflects that covenant, through words and photography. My writing is a mix of stories, personal essays, memoir, poetry, reflections, and meditations, some of which have now been published in Country Magazine by Reiman Publications/Readers Digest, in addition to regular medical opinion essays and as a guest writer for Her.menuetics. I have a published essay in an anthology called The Jane Effect: Celebrating Jane Goodall, to be released February 2015, recounting my first meeting with Jane.


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  1. Emily, how wonderful that you are considering your legacy … the unknown who will come in 50 years time, rejoicing in what you have planted. It’s clear that will not just be in your garden, but that your life has sown so much in the way seed that will fruit in many lives. Wow. Good on you, girl.

  2. This so resonates. Once, in a moment of great darkness, I heard God tell me to “plant bulbs.” That didn’t make a lot of sense to me, and my inner voice told God, “Huh??” God, in the kindness God has, bothered to answer me: “If you don’t have a reason to live till spring, plant bulbs.” I planted, I lived. Thanks for your words.

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