"The thorns are here. The roses are coming."
For the last few years, this has been one of the knowings I return to in times of turmoil and uncertainty. I have been holding it in my awareness through the depths of our climate crisis, the ongoing forest fires, the terror in Afghanistan, the recovery of Indigenous children from residential school sites, and the continuing pandemic.
Loss is not the word. Nor is heartbreak or sadness. I cannot find words for these times. There is the feeling that we are in great peril, and alongside that feeling, that we are on the brink of so much longed for change. Parallel to the wrenching sensation is a tenacious hope as I root into closer relationship to the land, to my kin, to continuing to muster up the courage to walk in my purpose.
I first heard it on my way to work. I had just finished meditating at my sit spot in a local park. This was my practice for trying to stay grounded and grateful during difficult times. These were difficult times.
I walked through the streets near my workplace taking in the morning glories and cosmos, the birds chirping. I stopped at the corner, hoping that my favourite rosebush was beginning to bloom. There was nothing, just thorns. It was hard not to feel the stab of disappointment.
Maybe it was my ancestors. Maybe it was my wisest self. I heard the words "The thorns are here. The roses are coming". To say that it completely shifted my perspective sounds trite. But it did. When loss or despair strikes, whether personal or collective, it's important not to deny or ignore it or to minimize its impact.
We lose nothing by admitting that the thorns are present. If anything, sometimes, simply by naming what hurts, we can feel a measure of comfort or empowerment. When we're not sure what hurts, how can we start healing? And if we're hell-bent on rushing through the healing process, we can miss some of the medicine that comes intertwined with our hurt.
In herbalism, there are are plant allies we can use for wound healing. They can draw out heat and inflammation. They can relieve pain and stop bleeding. But they have a time and a place. We don't want to heal a wound at the surface, but drive the infection deep into tissue or bone.
But if the thorns are here, that means the roses are on their way. If we are in pain or feeling lonely, sometimes all it takes for some of the sting to lessen is to know that help is on its way, that we will not always feel like this. Beauty is on its way. Peace and ease and connection are moving through the world to get to you.
There will always be more ugliness in this world than we can fathom. Some of it comes from genuine malice, but much of it is the gnarled roots of unmet needs, of not knowing belonging, of not having a safe place to be oneself, of only ever knowing love or connection as conditional, as the cost paid for community.
The beauty of the world will also come to us relentlessly. In the laughter of children, the taste of a lemon tart, the flight of cardinals to pine trees. Holding onto what hurts won't diminish the hurt. If we want to chip away at the malice, we can start by noticing the wholeness that already exists.
Tuning into where we already know safety and connection, affirmation and trust. There is much to be said for noticing and appreciating these things for their own sake, not for the sake of diminishing the ugliness of the world.
May we learn to trust the thorns and still hold that the roses are coming. May we find eyes to see what the thorns have to teach us and may we be with whatever is before us with as much curiousity , compassion, courage and presence as we can muster.