Garden Dilemmas, Delights & Discoveries, Ask Mary Stone, New Jersey Garden blog

Winter Season of Growth

a sunset in a winter snow at the Karen Ann Quinlan Home for Hospice

Hello fellow readers,

Earlier in the Fall, I attended a luncheon for the Karen Ann Quinlan Hospice volunteers. I sat with my singing buddy Ken Roberts and met Suzanne, a fellow volunteer. We chatted about the glorious sunny fall day. “Winter is coming.”

an oak tree with a few leaves in a field of fresh fallen snow

“I love seeing the trees without their leaves. You can really see their personality.”

“I love winter; it’s my favorite time of year,” Suzanne said.

“Me too. I love anticipating a snowstorm and skiing on the fresh cover of fluff. What do you like about winter?”

“I love seeing the trees without their leaves. You can really see their personality.”

So true! You can see how some branches are twisted or zigzagged so leaves can capture the sunshine. Then snow frosts them, creating sculpture.

Winter Season of Growth

In winter, some folks hide from the elements. Others take to trails and relish the tranquility when Mother Nature is quiet, though she’s not sleeping. Behind the dormant landscape (some call it dead), there is much life. Roots are busy preparing for the new growth to come.

“Did you always like winter? Even as a little girl?”

“Yes. But it wasn’t until later in life I realized why. My Mom was an alcoholic. I liked being in school.”

“The routine must have been comforting.” Once in a marriage ruined by addiction, I can’t imagine how it would be as a child.

We long for life to be calm and reliable. To feel secure. But like the seasons, our lives and world are constantly changing; each season varies from the previous year. Recall the Halloween snow a few years back. Trees toppled, but new trees sprouted. After every storm, the skies turn bright again.

Sometimes Winter Comes Early 

The patients at the Home for Hospice are in the winter of their lives. Although many are elderly, they aren’t always. Sometimes winter comes early. It makes me think we should live each day as if it could be the last. Not easy to do. We get caught up in to-dos and worry over the negativity broadcast around us.

But take the time to walk amongst nature, love friends and family, and be kind to neighbors and strangers. Serving others makes every day meaningful. And you never know the difference you are making in someone’s life.

After the luncheon, while walking with Jolee, I reflected on what led me to volunteer. The memories of brother Bill and I singing by Dad’s bedside while in a hospice house in Florida, where they lived. Then a handful of years later, the debut of Bill’s song Hope Road he rocked his first day in hospice care. And how brother Rick and I sang it at Bill’s Celebration of Life on World Tai Chi Day, second to Easter as his favorite day.

You never know the difference you make

I glanced ahead and saw a lump in the road; perhaps a squirrel was feeding on seeds. As we came closer, it turned out to be a snapping turtle covered in moss about the size of a platter, his head tucked inside with a mossy cap. Bill and I share a strong connection to turtles, marveling over their slow and steady behavior and reverence in many cultures dating back centuries.

How can I move this fellow with a dog in hand so he won’t get crushed? My heart sank. Then came a man in a white pickup truck who kindly stopped. “Which way is he heading?”

“Across the street, but I think he should go back to the pond.” Who am I to say it occurs to me now? Maybe he’s a she. The Mom of the baby snapper we came upon a few weeks before. Perhaps she was checking on her nest.

He pulled a piece of molding from his truck and masterfully rolled the turtle back to the pond. Each time the turtle landed a thump. The turtle hissed, mouth wide open. Then scurries into the murky water.

“What is your name?”

“Robert” (My Dad’s name.)

“Thank you, Robert; you lifted my heart.”

Wishing you many blessings and unexpected treasures in the garden of life.

Garden Dilemmas? and your favorite Podcast App.

There’s more to the story in Episode 84 of the Garden Dilemmas Podcast :

Links to related columns you’ll enjoy: Turtle Island and the Joy of Receiving Cut Flowers. 

A photo of Bill and Mary Stone thumbnail on a Vimeo - a recording of Hope Road by Bill Stone A few of the lyrics of Hope Road by Bill Stone:

“No one has the corner on the truth. You are not your job. This, too, shall pass. Only love will last. Put your worries down and follow Hope Road.” His lyric goes on to say,

“Well, they can’t take it from you, my friend. What you have is what you gave away. Kindness is the only thing left behind. Put it all down and follow Hope Road.”





Mary Stone, owner of Stone Associates Landscape Design & Consulting. As a Landscape Designer, I am grateful for the joy of helping others beautify their surroundings which often leads to sharing encouragement and life experiences. These relationships inspired my weekly column published in THE PRESS, 'Garden Dilemmas? Ask Mary', began in 2012. I dream of growing the evolving community of readers into an interactive forum to share encouragement and support in Garden and Personal Recoveries - seeking nature’s inspirations, stimulating growth, weeding undesirables, embracing the unexpected. Thank you for visiting! Mary
  1. Mary Cafarelli Reply

    Thanks for this beautiful post! Your stories touched my heart.

    • Mary Stone Reply

      And your kindness in reading and taking the time to share your feelings touched my heart. Thank you, Mary. It means so much.

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