The tree that cannot shed its old leaves in the dry season, cannot survive the period of drought.
Here in Cape Town we are experiencing our worst drought in a century. Local government has issued a warning that we may face the turning off of taps by the middle of March. (We would have to queue at collection points for daily allocations of twenty-five litres each.) We find ourselves saving water in all sorts of ways we’d never imagined: learning to live without long daily showers, flushing our loos with grey water and watching our gardens wither in the heat.
In our “make things happen” culture, it’s hard to be faced with a situation over which we have no control. For all our technological wizardry, we cannot make it rain. There are no how-to videos on YouTube for coaxing water from the clouds, no “Rainmaking for Dummies” on the shelves of the local bookstore. There’s plenty of talk about how the situation could have been avoided, what the powers that be should have done, reasons we face such dire predictions. None of this changes the daily reality for those of us living with endless skies of blue.
As 2017 ends, I find myself turning to thoughts of new things. What does 2018 hold for me? I have plans, and I’m excited about entering into a new season of productivity and action. It’s a bit like planning a garden: laying out the space, preparing the soil, planting, watering, feeding and watching it grow. But what if I do everything I can, apply myself diligently to the tasks of planning, preparing and planting, only to find that no water is there for the growth to happen? What do I do if (and when) my plans wither? I do not have control over everything, and sometimes my hopes and dreams seem to come to nothing. In some endeavours, I feel like I plod along with little to show for my efforts. There’s growth, but it’s stunted and lacking the beauty and fruitfulness I had hoped for.
I could try to tie this metaphor up into a neat lesson on patience and the power of what is accomplished in me, in the waiting and the slow work of living daily into the challenges, trusting that something is happening, even if I can’t see what it is. I believe this is true. I also believe that sometimes the rain does not come; sometimes things die, and sometimes I get only a small harvest from my efforts. I don’t always know what this means, or whether I’ve learned some great and worthy lesson from the experience. I do know that I want to keep ploughing. I want to keep planting seeds and caring for them, because sometimes they do grow.
I like the Nigerian proverb quoted above. I like the reminder to let go of the old. It’s hard to do that in seasons of drought. It’s easier to hold on tight to what I have, afraid that it’s all I have, afraid that I’ll be left with nothing. But then I have less energy and space for anything new. So I am thinking about what must go. I need to let go not only of things, but of old ideas. There are stories inside me that have served their purpose and need revising. (Some need to be left behind altogether.) Here’s to a new year in which we move into the next season of life with courage, faith and a willingness to embrace whatever comes.
I wish you much sweetness, joy and goodness in 2018.