Just about a month ago, I spent an evening pruning the roses that are planted on the south side of the house. Judging by the extent of the dead branches, this past winter had taken a surprising toll on them. It had seemed, at least for most of the dark months, that we had a mild winter. The evidence I saw before me, though, belied that impression of memory. Most of the five bushes had little left above the base, nothing but brown brittle stems. I cut each section back to the nearest evidence of green, a crackling and crunching testifying to the lack of life. In just a few places, though, a bare bud of green had sprouted out of the side of a stem.
By the time I finished, there was nearly a pickup load of jangled pieces, each one heavily fanged with thorns. I lifted them carefully, relying mostly on the leaf rake for the handling, loaded them into the truck and hauled them over to the burn pile. The bed of bushes looked quite bare, almost void of hope in the midst of early spring. The sparse, naked stubs of bushes gave little reason for expectation.
In spite of that lack, the bushes have flourished in the warming weeks that followed. A heavy growth of leaves and stems sprouted from the stubs. Last week, the first few buds began to show their form amidst the green of leaves. Yesterday, the first rose opened fully, a flush of red showing in the bed of foliage. A few feet away, another bud rippled its promise.
As long as the roots hold life, there is always hope for the coming of spring. From the base of even the most bruised and blackened branches, there is still the chance of fresh flowering, given the working of warmth and time. But when the foundation gives way and the decay extends even to what is hidden, it will require a greater miracle than the changing of seasons. It will take the very touch of God.