On this first day of Advent 2019, I am drawn to these photographs I took early one morning from our back porch. I learn so much from paying attention to gifts of green and lingering mist on the lake and leaves in our garden.
Water for Dry Roots
Lord, send my roots rain.
I need water for dried up hope.
I stand on tiptoe, reaching for Light.
I yearn to be watered by Grace.
I need water for dried up roots
Clouds of unknowing clear.
I can be watered by Grace
leaving drops for my growing roots.
Clouds of unknowing lift,
bathing my thirsty soul.
Grace gathers on my greening heart.
I have a God of green hope.
Gratitude salts my tears.
Thank you for sending rain.
Roots grow again.
I reach toward Light.
Simple pantoum, inspired by need, by receiving the gift of these photos on a morning I so needed to be reminded, and by Advent readings.
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.
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.
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.
The roses which cover this arbor have a name and a story. The official name is now Peggy Martin. The nickname is “survivor.” In the middle of our final move away from this garden and home this past week. we had vivid reminders of the origin of this rose. Our area has been covered with the waters of a devastating, history-making flood. The Brazos River crested 2 days ago at a record-breaking 54.81 feet, As water surged from the river, entire neighborhoods were flooded and evacuated or stranded, roads rendered impassable, fields of crops and cattle inundated, and lives changed forever. There has been so much loss of property and livelihood.
The survivor rose is a symbol of this heartbreaking picture. In late August 2005, Category 4 Hurricane Katrina created this type of destruction in New Orleans on an even larger scale.Levees were breached, and 85 percent of the city was underwater. This rose was the only rose among over 400 antique roses surviving 20 feet of salt water over the garden of Mrs. Peggy Martin, Plaquemines Parish, Louisiana, Mrs. Martin lost her parents, her home, and commercial fishing boat in the storm. When she was finally able to return to visit their property she was heartened to see the lush growth of her climbing rose, a testament to its toughness and status as a true survivor.
Our roses covered an arbor which has provided shade and shelter for children playing, birds nesting, and a place for quiet respite. This too, reminds me of our present circumstances. We have witnessed the hospitality and shelter of our community. Our church is a Red Cross shelter, where many evacuees have received a place to stay dry and sleep, meals, and help from many volunteers. Our emergency responders have diligently and consistently worked to rescue, assist, and keep us all informed and protected as much as possible. Many have responded with generosity and caring in a variety of ways. Neighbors have helped both neighbors and strangers. As Mr. Rogers once said, in trying to help children absorb the impact of tragedies, we can look beyond to the helpers.
I am thankful for the Grace that enables us to be helpers, to offer peace to one another, and that hope remains.
As swimmers dare to lie face to the sky and water bears them, as hawks rest upon air and air sustains them, so would I learn to attain freefall, and float into Creator Spirit’s deep embrace, knowing no effort earns that all-surrounding grace.
We are happy every year when the magnolia tree in our yard begins adding little upright buds that look like candles on an old-fashioned Christmas tree. The smooth, straight stick figures that hide tightly furled promise were described by poet Wallace Stevens as “ghosts of its forthcoming flowers” They look fragile as if bird or breeze could tip them over and onto the ground.
So after flooding rains and wind that snapped some trees, we welcomed the unfolding of huge ivory blooms. Joe brought one to me as I sat on the porch swing this morning. Its fragrance and beauty bring both tears and smiles. The magnolia is one of my earliest childhood memories. Like pine boughs and gardenias, even if I close my eyes, the fragrance brings a surge of memory and story.
“Like the magnolia tree,
She bends with the wind,
Trials and tribulation may weather her,
Yet, after the storm her beauty blooms,
See her standing there, like steel,
With her roots forever buried,
Deep in her Southern soil.”― Nancy B. Brewer, Letters from Lizzie