Flowering

Night Blooming Cereus   September 26, 2019

change begins, barely noticeable

 pay attention to little things

wait expectantly

in anticipation of fleeting beauty

flowering in a dark, dry night

Over 4 years ago, a friend mailed me a brown envelope containing 2 different varieties of several long narrow “leaves.” These were actually leaf-like structures, flattened stems that function like leaves. Following my friend’s instructions, I stuck each of these into pots where they easily rooted. I lost one of the plants to an unexpected temperature drop 2 years ago. The remaining plant had one bloom last summer that we missed until it was withered.

A few days ago, almost by accident I saw a bit of growth on the edge of one of the flat stems and sent a photo to the friend who sent me the start of the plant. She confirmed it was a flower bud. That meant watching the plant carefully for the next 2 or 3 days. As the growth lengthened and began to swell, anticipation grew so that by the evening I felt it was sure to open, I was bound to stay up and watch. How magical!

Night blooming Cereus may not begin to flower until the rooted plant is four or five years old. It only blooms in the dark.  The flower is almost 7 inches across and is fragrant, borne off the tops of the stems. The bloom usually begins at 9 or 10 p.m. and is fully open by midnight. After the sun rises, the petals droop and die.

Stitched Together

Photograph of briar stitching on a crazy quilt made by Mary Clyde Terrell, 1887 – 1977.

This week our sons, one of our granddaughters,  and my husband traveled to North Texas for the burial of Joe’s brother, Pasco Parker. My stage of recovery from a spinal injury did not allow me to travel that distance. In the days they were gone, naturally a flood of family memories and reflections surfaced as I pictured the gathering that was taking place.

There were 5 brothers in Joe’s family of origin. Now he, the youngest,  remains, along with his oldest sibling, a sister. As those siblings decrease in number, the increase in numbers of their descendants is great. Family. Stitched together by blood and bone.

Over 42 years ago I lost the grandmother whose gnarled hands lovingly created the art of stitches pictured above. But there remained so much more than I could have then imagined.  When she passed into eternal life,  her family and legacy of faith grew and continued. As our family leans into the days and years ahead, there is certainty along with uncertainty.  There has been and will be loss. But there is also continuing connection, something we cannot lose. Those who have gone before and those who are to come are stitched together.

 

 

 

 

 

Leaving Prints

When we moved in 2016, there were many choices made about keeping. After so many years and so many moves in our married life, Joe and I were joining households with our son Ben and his wife Kristen, our granddaughter Nora (at the time, 2 years old) and Oliver, who was born later that year. Every move meant sorting and packing and rearranging to fit us into new space. As years went by, we changed some things, discarded some things, and  of course, acquired some things. As much work as each move entailed, I always enjoyed the part of unpacking where we chose what would go where, and the ways in which we would make the new place home.  When we did that, I invariably linked many things sentimentally with where we had acquired them, how they had previously been used, and remembered their story.

This small handprint is part of a pair of handprints on a mirror. The mirror is part of a larger wooden piece which we found in the attic of our beloved Victorian house in our hometown, Jacksonville, TX. The house was built in 1904 by John Wesley Love and has its own story here: https://mappingsforthismorning.blogspot.com/2010/10/home_3697.html

I am not sure of the origin of this piece, but I am sure it is part of something else – a mantel, the top of an organ, I don’t know. The original mirror suffered damage in one of the moves so we had that replaced but we have found a place to hang this in every home we have made since 1982. I was sure we wanted to keep it with us this time. Only after I had it hung in my bedroom (over a fireplace) here did I notice the sweet reminders that a granddaughter had left her touch. It must have been while the piece was sitting down on the floor waiting to be moved or hung. It must have been Nora, who was 2 at the time. MIrrors are always a fascination, a mystery to babies and toddlers. This week, she started Kindergarten, out the door in her school uniform.. In what seems like only a few heartbeats, she is reaching for new mysteries, leaving more handprints.

I know that no matter how much she grows, Nora has and will always leave her touch, her handprint on not just a mirror, but on me, a God given blessing. The same is true for all my grandchildren . I  don’t know  how the marks I leave behind will be noticed  or make a difference, but I am aware that I am leaving prints behind as well.

Considering the Circumstances

When we began landscaping the large back yard of our current home 2 years ago, some of the plants I wanted to include were oakleaf hydrangeas. Unlike the pretty pink and blue mophead blooms, these flowers are greenish-white when they are young, picking up subtle shades of pink and brown as they age. After new flowers stop coming, the blooms stay on the plant and look lovely as they mature.

The foliage is different, too. Lobed leaves are bright green in spring and fall, turning brilliant shades of burgundy and orange as autumn turns into winter. They are also interesting shrubs in winter since the bark peels back, revealing the dark layer beneath. We planted several at the east end of our back porch where we could watch them as they changed. One plant did not survive the first winter which was more severe than usual. The others have come into their own this year. I almost missed the first blooms since I was seldom outside for weeks during the beginning of my recovery. Part of my determination to aid healing has been to go outside for a few minutes at least each day and walk on the porch if not in the garden. After I discovered the first tight green buds of beginning flowers, I made sure I checked on their progress.

Often, the smallest lessons learned on this porch and others we have called home teach me Garden Grace. While admiring the progress of these blooms, I remembered that these shrubs bloom on the prior year’s growth.

I may not feel very productive or useful in these days of being homebound and restricted, but the healing of bone, body, and spirit happening now may provide my ability to bloom in the future.

“If, then, we desire a simple test of the quality of our spiritual life, a consideration of the tranquillity, gentleness, and strength with which we deal with the circumstances of our outward life will serve us better than anything…It is a test that can be applied anywhere and at any time. Tranquillity, gentleness and strength, carrying us through the changes of weather, the ups and downs of the route, the varied surface of the road; the inequalities of family life, emotional and professional disappointments, the sudden intervention of bad fortune or bad health, the rising and falling of our religious temperature. This is the threefold imprint of the Spirit on the souls surrendered to his great action.”  From The Spiritual Life by Evelyn Underhill

Return

When rainfall dampens the brown, crusted, outstretched arms of these ancient oaks, a reenactment of  beauty begins. Delicate green fronds curl around the branches. The verdant festoon is  called “resurrection fern” because, in dry weather, the fern’s fronds curl up, turn brown, and seem to be dead—that is, until the next rain, when they turn green and spring back to life.

Resurrection fern is the common name of an epiphytic plant that in our part of the country grows most often on the massive limbs of live oaks..

I never tire of seeing this happen. As I write today, I feel as if it has begun to rain for me. My long absence from this blog as well as the two others I regularly write posts for has been a dry time for me, and I have missed both the writing and the exchange with readers.

During the past year, my husband, Joe, has lost most of his vision due to retinal bleeding and glaucoma. There have been multiple medical appointments, injections, and laser surgeries for him. Loss of vision is never easy. He has met challenge after challenge with courage but also great sadness.

In mid April, I fell, resulting in a compression fracture of a lumbar vertebra with subsequent surgical injections, hospitalization, some unwelcome complications, and an addition to my summer wardrobe: a molded brace. Uncomfortable? Pain? Yes. Restrictions, certainly. But also so much support and help from our family and friends. Since we live with our youngest son, Ben, his wife Kristen and their children, they added helping us with all we needed to their already busy schedules. Right now, Ben is making pot roast for our dinner while 2 preschoolers “help”, Kristen is working in the yard, and they will do our laundry tomorrow!  Our oldest son and his wife, Sean and Teion, have helped so much  in numerous ways, including hours in the ER with me.  Our son in Nevada, Jeremy, calls and texts almost every day. Always attentive, our family has made sure we are cared for.

I had to hand over my calendar to others for all of Joe’s appointments as well as mine. Close friends from our church brought meals and coordinated driving in the early weeks, stayed with me during surgery, prayed for us, and along with our sons, daughters, and grandchildren have given help and poured encouragement over us. I cannot say Thank You enough. To all of them. To God, who blessed us with these dear ones in our lives to love us and care for us.

There is a great deal of healing and work yet to come. But there is also hope and always, God’s presence.  Today I feel the rain begin.

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Here. Now. This.

Red Baron Peach blossoms, February 28, 2019

Here. Now. This.

Now.

I want to notice.

I want to pay attention

to beauty that won’t wait

to music that may fade

to chances to be kind

 

We planted several fruit trees, including a small Red Baron peach tree in our back yard in 2017. That winter, one unusual hard freeze produced a couple of 19 degree nights so several of the trees did not survive. The little peach tree produced a few leaves in the Spring and stayed with us. Last winter brought more cold than is typical for us. The tree   looked like a 3 feet tall stick. When the roses nearby were blooming in January and February, we often noticed the sad little stick. Then, proving survivorship, it began to bud. The buds swelled to these brilliant blossoms. Four days later, Winter came back with a vengeance. Even though we covered it with a pillowcase, our tiny tree is now a stick again. But the story is not over…

 

Puzzle Peace

This photograph might bring a different story to any viewer. Sit with it for a few moments and think of the message it brings you.

The pictured piece hangs from a strip of leather – a bookmark left in a poetry book. I thought of it when I received a note describing ways of looking at puzzling, hard to understand times.  When I am open to the wonder and synchronicity of my surroundings, I find encouragement, illumination, and illustration everywhere.  I am thankful for learning puzzle peace.

New Year, New Day, New Light

0Photography by Jeremy Parker, Reno, NV            January 2019

My son recently photographed the view from his bedroom window as sunrise revealed light snow which had fallen quietly in the night. I contrast his view of snow and the Virginia Foothills with my view on the same morning nearly 2000 miles away on the South Texas Gulf Coast. Snow is rare here. Many mornings I wake to dense fog, On other days I see mist rising from the lake behind our house as sunrise fills the sky with color.

new light, new choices, new mercy

new landscape

if I pay attention,

fill my soul with astonishment,

I can tell you …

it is never “just another day”

~ written with attention, astonishment,  gratitude, and recognition of poet Mary Oliver, who died last week.

Instructions for living a life –

Pay attention

Be astonished

Tell about it.

from Mary Oliver’s poem Sometimes, published in the book Redbird.

 

Blooming in the Dark

There is an old saying that declares you find what you are looking for. But there are times I find what I did not look for or expect at all. The times when I am surprised by grace. The cold, dark times when my face is lifted and lit up unexpectedly. This exquisite  blossom almost opened and faded without anyone finding it. During an early but short spell of freezing temperatures, all our container plants were pushed near the house on our back porch, clustered together. The small pot containing this plant was in a dark corner with large pots in front. There has been joy and activity in our home this Advent and Christmastide, but the many cold, wet days have kept us inside more.There have been colds and flu in the family. There have also been elements of loss, darkness and uncertainty, threatening soul drought due to my husband’s continued loss of vision.

Our little succulent helps remind me that hope and beauty bloom in darkness. Indeed, this plant requires dormancy to bloom at all. It must have less water, cooler temperatures, and at least 12 to 14 hours of darkness at night. But this is not the only lesson – plants may also need dormancy to survive stress.

After providing us this pleasure and beauty, this blooming in the dark, our Christmas Cactus will drop its blooms, then return to light and growth.

As 2019 begins, may we turn toward Light and thrive.