In the Pacific Northwest, faithful gardeners traditionally emerge from their soggy winter hibernation on Presidents’ Day weekend. Our task? Pruning the tea roses. Final fall flowers were left to form decorative seed pods, called rose hips, over the winter, but we now ruthlessly attack leafless limbs, carefully cutting about ¼ inch above an outward-facing bud line, where new life lurks.
We are left with three or four stark arms reaching toward heaven: no nostalgic pod, greening leaf, or promising bud; just stripped branches, bristling thorns, and raw cuts. That’s how it feels at the beginning of Lent, the time of darkness that promises light. Cutting away the dead old growth will provoke new beauty to emerge.
Susan VanZanten teaches English at Seattle Pacific University, in Seattle, Washington. Her writings include Mending a Tattered Faith: Devotions with Dickinson (Wipf and Stock, 2011) and Reading a Different Story: A Christian Scholar's Journey from America to Africa (Baker Academic, 2013).