A pale sun sits low in the sky. The air is cool and damp, smelling of earth and rotting leaves. A thin layer of ice covers the pond and frost lurks in the shadows under the trees. But even in late November the variety of trees and foliage is fascinating at the VanDusen Botanical Garden.
Many of the trees are bare, save for a few red berries and the rhododendrons with their leaves shining an eternal green.
The fern grotto is shaded by a canopy of evergreens and we examine each placard looking for the ferns that grow around here. There are so many different varieties, some native to Eurasia and other foreign places. My thirteen year old daughter bends to take a picture and then turns to ask a question. “Was there winter before Adam and Eve sinned?”
A challenging question, typical of the things my children have asked over the years. I think on it for a moment.
She lifts the camera to frame the branch of an odd looking tree. Around clusters of tiny pinecones, its needles are dried and yellow. Is it dead I wonder, or just a coniferous that loses it needles?
The correct theology of the origin of winter escapes me. I think back to that first tropical garden, which must have been unlike this one. Or was it? I imagine large lush leaves, flowers in full bloom, bursting with fragrance and branches laden with tempting fruit. Were there four seasons in ancient Mesopotamia, like we have here, north of the 49th?
I am not especially fond of winter, its dreariness and cold, but here in this garden I see it has a purpose. Winter is a kind of Sabbath, a rest time for the gardener and the plants. In dormancy they save up strength for new growth; the flowers of spring and fruit of summer. Winter has a purpose; it is a prelude to new life.
It makes me think of Jesus’ death and resurrection and how, when we die to ourselves, He brings new life.
I look forward to what is coming, because just as the plants wait, their fruit spent, their leaves decayed, so also we wait for the final resurrection; new life that lasts forever. Winter is now, but spring will come.