More than the fuchsia funnels breaking out of the crabapple tree, more than the neighbor’s almost obscene display of cherry limbs shoving their cotton candy-colored blossoms to the slate sky of Spring rains, it’s the greening of the trees that really gets to me. When all the shock of white and taffy, the world’s baubles and trinkets, leave the pavement strewn with the confetti of aftermath, the leaves come. Patient, plodding, a green skin growing over whatever winter did to us, a return to the strange idea of continuous living despite the mess of us, the hurt, the empty. Fine then, I’ll take it, the tree seems to say, a new slick leaf unfurling like a fist to an open palm, I’ll take it all. ~Ada Limón“Instructions on Not Giving Up”
I thought I was empty – hollow and irretrievable – after such a long drawn out winter. Yet here I am, here we are, still among the living and I find I am swept away and useless to accomplish anything else except breathing.
The landscape is exploding with layers of color and shadow and standing too close, I too am ignited. It is impossible to witness so much unfolding life and light and not be engulfed and singed.
It lures me outside where flames of green lap about my ankles as I stroll the fields and each fresh breeze fans the fires until I’ve nothing left of myself but ash and shadow.
Consumed and subsumed. Combusted and busted.
What a way to go.
I’ll take it. I’ll take it all.
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…Do not be afraid, though briers and thorns are all around you… Ezekiel 2:6
<The ground> will produce thorns and thistles for you. Genesis 3:18
Perched on the high end of its spinal stalk the brain blooms like a pink cabbage rose Peel back the blunt bone like a bud— it will be meaty to touch, the corolla folding in, folding in to echo within the sepal skull a blink of light, logarithms, a view of ships in harbor, a word just now rescued by memory, clipped arbor vitae how it smells—spiced Here God lives, burrowing among the petals, cross- pollinating. Here is Christ’s mind juiced, joined, fleshed, celled. Here is the clash, the roil, an invasion, not gentle as dew; the rose is unfurled violently until the scent explodes and detonates in the air And oh, it trembles— thousands of seeds ripen in it as it reels in the wind ~Luci Shaw “Flower head”
Christ … is a thorn in the brain. Christ is God crying I am here, and here not only in what exalts and completes and uplifts you, but here in what appalls, offends, and degrades you, here in what activates and exacerbates all that you would call not-God. To walk through the fog of God toward the clarity of Christ is difficult because of how unlovely, how ungodly that clarity often turns out to be. ~Christian Wiman from Image Journal essay “Varieties of Quiet”
It was gardener/author Alphonse Karr in the mid-19th century who wrote that even though most people grumble about roses having thorns, he was grateful that thorns have roses. After all, there was a time when thorns were not part of our world, when we knew nothing of suffering and death, but pursuing and desiring more than we were already generously given, we received a bit more than we bargained for.
We continue to reel under the thorns our choices produce — indeed every day there is more bloodletting.
So a rose was sent to adorn the thorns and even then we chose thorns to make Him bleed. Yes, a fragrant rose blooms beautiful, bleeding amid the thorns, and will to the endless day.
1. Maria walks amid the thorn, Kyrie eleison. Maria walks amid the thorn, Which seven years no leaf has born. Jesus and Maria.
2. What ‘neath her heart doth Mary bear? Kyrie eleison. A little child doth Mary bear, Beneath her heart He nestles there. Jesus and Maria.
3. And as the two are passing near, Kyrie eleison, Lo! roses on the thorns appear, Lo! roses on the thorns appear. Jesus and Maria.
A spotless Rose is blowing, sprung from a tender root, Of ancient seers’ foreshowing of Jesse promised fruit; Its fairest bud unfolds to light Amid the cold, cold winter; and in the dark midnight.
The Rose which I am singing, whereof Isaiah said, Is from its sweet root springing in Mary, purest Maid; For, through our God’s great love and might, The blessed Babe she bare us in a cold, cold winter’s night.
This Flower, whose fragrance tender with sweetness fills the air, Dispels with glorious splendour the darkness everywhere; True Man, yet very God, From sin and death He saves us, and lightens every load.
O Jesus, by being born out of this vale of tears, Let Thy help guide us to the hall of joy In your father’s kingdom, As we praise You eternally; O God, give us that.
When Jesus Christ was yet a child He had a garden small and wild Where-in he cherished roses fair And wove them into garlands there
Now as the summertime drew nigh There came a troop of children by And seeing roses on the tree With shouts they plucked them merrily
“Do you bind roses in your hair?”
They cried in scorn to Jesus there The boy said humbly “Take I pray All but the naked thorns away”
Then of the thorns they made a crown And with rough fingers pressed it down Till on his forehead fair and young Red drops of blood like roses sprung ~Plechtcheev, melody by Tchaikovsky
Oh that I once past changing were, Fast in thy Paradise, where no flower can wither! Many a spring I shoot up fair, Offering at heaven, growing and groaning thither; Nor doth my flower Want a spring shower, My sins and I joining together.
And now in age I bud again, After so many deaths I live and write; I once more smell the dew and rain, And relish versing. Oh, my only light, It cannot be That I am he On whom thy tempests fell all night.
These are thy wonders, Lord of love, To make us see we are but flowers that glide; Which when we once can find and prove, Thou hast a garden for us where to bide; Who would be more, Swelling through store, Forfeit their Paradise by their pride. ~George Herbert from “The Flower”
As they are meant to do, the crocuses have melted back to earth the winter snowdrops long gone, the orchard tree blossoms have shed their petals to become burgeoning cherries, pears and apples, the daffodils have come and gone, the tulips are falling apart in slow motion.
Spring in full swing Exhaustion replaced by renewal and fresh air now filled with the sweetness of growth and fruitfulness.
Our fields grow lush and soft with the sun warm on our horses’ withers.
It isn’t enough to celebrate the defeat of winter by blooming where we are planted; when we do fall apart, may we find ourselves never withering again.
For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God. For,
“All people are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field; the grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of the Lord endures forever.”
And this is the word that was preached to you. 1 Peter 1:23-25
The air was soft, the ground still cold. In the dull pasture where I strolled Was something I could not believe. Dead grass appeared to slide and heave, Though still too frozen-flat to stir, And rocks to twitch and all to blur. What was this rippling of the land? Was matter getting out of hand And making free with natural law, I stopped and blinked, and then I saw A fact as eerie as a dream. There was a subtle flood of steam Moving upon the face of things. It came from standing pools and springs And what of snow was still around; It came of winter’s giving ground So that the freeze was coming out, As when a set mind, blessed by doubt, Relaxes into mother-wit. Flowers, I said, will come of it. ~Richard Wilbur “April 5, 1974”
As the ground softens with spring,
so do I.
Somehow the solid winter freeze was comforting
as nothing appeared to change, stayed static,
so neither did I,
remaining stolid and fixed.
But now, with light and warmth,
the fixed is flexing,
steaming in its labor,
and so must I,
When she heard infinity whispered in her ear, did the flashing scissors in her fingers fall to the wooden floor and the spool unravel, the spider’s sly cradle tremble with love?
How the dry fields leaned toward the news and she heard, for a moment, the households of crickets – When she answered, all things shifted, the moon in its river of milk.
And when she wanted to pluck her heart from her breast, did she remember a commotion of wings, or the stirring of dust? ~Kathleen Wakefield “Mary’s Poem”
A child is born, crowned in blood, and we lighten up. Sure, we see it every day, and yet this day, tradition says, is unlike any, which is true. It has never happened, and never will again, over and over the will to be reborn, to gasp and cry forgiveness, that is, like birth, difficult, scared, insurgent, brave with the stranger, the winter child, that blossoms through the wound. ~Bruce Bond from “Advent”
In sleep his infant mouth works in and out. He is so new, his silk skin has not yet been roughed by plane and wooden beam nor, so far, has he had to deal with human doubt.
He is in a dream of nipple found, of blue-white milk, of curving skin and, pulsing in his ear, the inner throb of a warm heart’s repeated sound.
His only memories float from fluid space. So new he has not pounded nails, hung a door, broken bread, felt rebuff, bent to the lash, wept for the sad heart of the human race. ~Luci Shaw “Kenosis”
To think that the original Breath stirring the dust of man led to this?
This mystery of God becoming man, growing within woman, fed from her breast, wounded and bleeding to save her who delivered him, emptied himself completely to then deliver all of us as newborns, sliding slippery into our new life.
And we gasp for breath, our nostrils no longer breathing dust, but filled by the fragrance of forgiveness and grace.
We blossom through his wounds, bursting into bloom.
Find a quiet rain. Then a green spruce tree. You will notice that nearly every needle has been decorated with a tiny raindrop ornament. Look closely inside the drop and there you are. In color. Upside down. Raindrops have been collecting snapshots since objects and people were placed, to their surprise, here and there on earth.
…even if we are only on display for a moment in a water drop as it clings to a pine needle, it is expected that we be on our best behavior, hair combed, jacket buttoned, no vulgar language. Smiling is not necessary, but a pleasant attitude is helpful, and would be, I think, appreciated. ~Tom Hennen from “Outdoor Photos”
Some days I choose to trudge along dry and cranky — each step an effort, each thought a burden, each moment an opportunity to grump. It is good to be reminded I am preserved, as is, for an instant, in the camera eye of the raindrops I pass, each snapping a photo of my attitude.
It wouldn’t hurt me to smile, even if the events of the day may not call for it. At least those smiles, reflected in the lens of each raindrop, will soak the soil when let go to fall earthward. There is no better place for them to bloom and grow, ready for a new day.
That year I discovered the virtues of plants as companions: they don’t argue, they don’t ask for much, they don’t stay out until 3:00 A.M., then lie to you about where they’ve been…
I can’t summon the ambition to repot this grape ivy, or this sad old cactus, or even move them out onto the porch for the summer where their lives would certainly improve. I give them a grudging dash of water- that’s all they get.
The truth is that if I permit them to live, they will go on giving alms to the poor: sweet air, miraculous flowers, the example of persistence. ~Jane Kenyon from “Killing of Plants”
During my dorm room years
and city apartment dwelling days,
this former farm girl was reconciled
to no pets allowed,
so I surrounded myself with an indoor garden,
every square inch of window sill
occupied by a living thing
whose survival depended only partially on me.
Those plants sustained me,
cheered me, moved me,
moved with me to windows
with better light and grander views.
Despite my neglect,
they persisted, often thrived,
and gave back to my shriveled city spirit
far beyond any water or repotting offered.
Somehow these miracles in chlorophyll
knew just what I needed when I needed it:
they fed me when I was starving
for something live,
something that knew exactly what to do
and what to become
when I had no clue.