Trimming my heart’s ivy

Image credit: © 2006 karl sinfield, from Flickr, used under CC-BY-SA licensing


These last few weeks of late summer are always bittersweet for me.

With each passing year, my fondness for summer grows. As one who is always cold, I crave summer’s warmth. I love the extra hours of daylight that help me stave off depression. I delight in the extra time spent outdoors in nature. The sound of cicadas and other insects on a summer’s evening is my favorite symphony.

Most of all, though, I love the vibrant greenness of summer. I don’t even have names for the many rich shades of green that surround me. And the abundance of life and growth in my garden astounds me even as I struggle to keep it all trimmed and weeded and under some semblance of control.

So as I watch this beloved season coming to a close every year, I begin to cling to summer. I dig my fingers into the season as if that will keep it here longer. Like ivy, I try to wind myself around each moment to make it last.

And every year I am reminded again that not only does my clinging not make the slightest bit of difference to the progression of the seasons, but my clinging actually causes me to miss out on the very thing I so desperately want to hold onto.

I sit outside on my back porch on late summer evenings to enjoy the sights, sounds, and feel of these days, but my mind is already so busy fretting about the avalanche of leaves that I will soon need to cope with and the coming days of darkness and cold and ice that I am deaf to my beloved insect symphony and blind to the greenness and warmth that are still present.

Every year, I have to keep bringing myself back from my dread of the changes that are coming to appreciate the beauty that is actually present in this moment of this season.

How often I do this in other “seasons” of my life!

I cling to situations, relationships, things, and people that I treasure, afraid of the day when they will change—as all things do in this life.

I worry and fret over what I will do when these people or these circumstances are no longer present in the same way instead of embracing with a whole heart what is before me here and now.

My very clinging causes me to miss out on the things I love most because my focus is instead on their inevitable future loss.

My other approach is to try insulate myself against the inevitable loss by never letting myself love too deeply to begin with. Instead of clinging like ivy to moments I want to hold onto, I build a barrier of it between myself and the world to (try to) keep my heart safe.

From one extreme to the other I go—clinging too tightly, then holding it all at a distance. Neither one works very well.

In both cases, my heart’s ivy gradually deforms and overtakes all in its path with its clinging and overgrowth, just like the ivy in my gardens tries to do.

Mary Oliver suggests a better way. She says:

“To live in this world, you must be able to do three things: to love what is mortal; to hold it against your bones knowing your own life depends on it; and, when the time comes to let it go, to let it go.”

To live fully means opening myself to love what I love as deeply as I can in each moment knowing all the while that the day will come when I must let it go and having the ability to let it go without clinging when that day does come.

For me, that means a constant trimming of my heart’s ivy to keep it under control.

It means sitting out on my back porch with my heart fully open to appreciate and enjoy every drop of summer while it remains and gracefully surrendering to summer’s inevitable movement into autumn’s own form of beauty.

And as I am reminded (yet again) of the danger of allowing my heart’s ivy to grow unchecked, I’m taking the time to notice where else I may be clinging or insulating myself in this ever-changing world and choosing again to open my heart both to love and to letting go.

What do you tend to cling to in your life? Where do you build walls instead to try to protect yourself from future loss? Where could your heart’s ivy use a bit of trimming today?


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4 thoughts on “Trimming my heart’s ivy

  • September 3, 2014 at 8:11 am
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    The ivy image is beautiful!! And perfect. :-))

    • September 3, 2014 at 8:25 am
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      Thank you! I’ve been spending a lot of time trimming ivy in my yard this year with all the rain, so it’s an image that’s very much on my mind. :)

  • September 5, 2014 at 4:41 pm
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    You so beautifully express my feeling about the changing seasons of the year and of life.

    • September 5, 2014 at 8:55 pm
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      Thanks so much, Becky, for taking the time to read and comment! It’s always nice to hear that others share my responses to the world.

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