Winter wind shakes the gnarled fingers of barren trees at a gray sky. In a few months, those same trees will bud and then burst into bloom, send forth new growth. In the depth of personal loss, we are often reminded by those who seek to provide comfort that joy does, in truth, cometh in the morning. Happiness, these good folks tell us, will return just as spring follows winter. But, this comparison, as it pertains to the losses that come with aging, is a false equivalency.
A more apt image of this particular loss is that of a wildfire that burns everything in its path. Of course, life does indeed return to the burned over forest. But that new life, that change, looks very little like the trees and underbrush, the layers of life that built upon itself for hundreds of years to reach the exquisite complexity which was reduced by flames to wet ash and destruction.
If we live long enough to feel the slowing down of our bodies, to watch friends leave us through death, or insanity, or addiction, or illness, we may come, then, to the understanding that our lives are rich in the ash of loss. Wildflowers flourish after a fire precisely because ash is such fertile soil for new, delicate growth. Our lives, like the burned over forest, looses complexity as we age. But when we have sufficiently mourned for our favorite shade tree, grieved for the den where the rabbits nested each year, cried for the loss of the sword ferns our grandmother always loved, then we may find pleasure in the feathery leaves of the poppy, the soft lavender of crocus, or the pale green of a fiddle head amongst the gray of loss.