It's been especially cold recently; a hard, biting cold, which discourages all but essential outdoor activity. My recent weekend in Rome, when I walked around carrying my jacket (instead of bundled up inside it!), feels very distantly past, a tantalising memory.
The other day I saw these snowdrops, and beside them, this single winter iris, a splash of jewel-like, exotic colour in this season of bare branches. I've written about snowdrops before: their deceptive appearance of fragility, their slender stalks, seemingly bowed under the weight of their buds. Deceptively fragile because anything which can not only withstand winter's harshness, but can push its way up through rock-hard soil, stretch, flourish and flower; anything which doesn't curl up into a freezing little ball, has got to be incredibly hardy and tough.
Even so, there was something about their downcast buds which made me remember some words from Pope Francis, which a colleague had displayed on her wall: With a tenderness that never disappoints, but is always capable of restoring our joy, God makes it possible for us to lift our heads and start anew.
Next week we begin Lent, a season when we can always start anew. May it be a time for all of us to know God's unfailing, joy-restoring tenderness; a time when we can all lift our heads and gladly meet God's all-loving, all-reconciling gaze upon us...