At the beginning of December, this bowl sat empty, except for the "frog" that I had recently purchased at an antique shop. Even a quick Google search provided no clues as to why this little circle of metal pins, used to keep flower stems in place, is called a frog. Maybe because it hangs out in water, like a frog on a lily pad? What I do know is that it was the essential center to my Advent practice this year.
As December 1st approached, I began searching for a routine I could continue each day until the 25th...a regular time of day when I could slow down, become silent, reflect on the present and the coming of winter. Perhaps I would read a book of meditations, write in my journal, light a candle – all of which I had done before. None of them "spoke" to me this year. But looking outside my windows did.
So early morning on the first of December, I followed my intuition and the road to the nearby Nature Preserve. I had no clear-cut plan, but an openness to simply pay attention.
I walked across the boardwalk just as the sun was topping the trees, then followed the gravel path for a half mile or so before turning around. At first, I saw nothing remarkable about the dried leaves and grasses, the occasional berries still clinging to branches, the evergreen pines and cedars that line the path all year long.
But then I stopped, took a deep breath and looked more closely. A pine bough, barely catching the light, seemed to awaken. I noticed its greenness, its slender needles, the lovely way it bent forward as if to greet me.
I, of course, was the one awakening.
With gratitude, I plucked a sprig from the branch and brought it home. Positioning the frog in the center of the bowl, I added water and secured the pine among the pins. It became the foundation of my found objects, one every day for the next 24 days, as I walked in the Preserve.
I wondered each morning what I might discover, how walking among nature might give me gifts I would never find under a Christmas tree. Today as I look at the completed arrangement and recall my walks, I smile with deep joy, gratitude and calmness of spirit.
Precious gifts, indeed, to carry forward into the new year.
Sending wishes of peace, health and growth in 2024!