Sunday, April 12, 2009

On Life, Death, and Hydrangeas


Confession: I am a plant killer. It’s not malicious. Not even intentional. I just don’t have a green thumb. I’m forgetful. And inconsistent. So while my intentions are benign, that still doesn’t bode well for our plants.

My favorite flowers are blue hydrangeas. Outside our house in Pasadena, we planted pink ones, blue ones and white ones along the east wall. At first they bloomed in abundance, with dramatic clusters of flowers. They lifted my spirits. I was pretty good at watering them and taking care of them, but as the hot August sun burned down, and I neglected to shade them, sometimes forgetting to water, the leaves dried up around the edges, then the petals turned brown. By the end of October’s Santa Ana winds there was nothing left but dry sticks. I was sad. I’d screwed up. Again. I was so disappointed in my inability to keep something I loved alive. (To a lesser degree, not unlike the feeling of failure I felt when our last baby was born...stillborn.)

Over the course of the winter I almost forgot about my dead hydrangeas. But the next February something amazing happened. Buds. Little nubs of leaves growing up and down the branches. A hint at new life. Encouraged, I watered again. Pruned the weakened tops off the branches. Within weeks the branches were covered with bright green serrated leaves. Then came the flowers, my favorite blue blossoms. We lovingly nicknamed the hydrangeas our "Resurrection Plants." Somehow watching these dead, dry sticks come back to life had given us an increased faith in the literal resurrection. We saw it happen. It’s not just possible. It’s a reality.

And seeing my favorite flowers come back to life didn’t just bolster my faith in a physical resurrection. It also helped me understand forgiveness. Despite my own screw-ups, my neglect, my contribution to the demise of these plants, my hydrangeas came back. And continued to come back, year after year. I saw hope and healing. Grace and mercy. Unconditional love.

Every Easter (and at other times too) I like to think of my hydrangeas. I even found the perfect place to grow them here at our new house. They’ve become a beautiful symbol for me...these plants that die...and then come back to life. Even with my best efforts, they’ve suffered at my hand, forgiven me, and continue to resurrect every spring, reminding me of the sacrifice and the promise given to all mankind.

20 comments:

Steph @ Diapers and Divinity said...

My gardening skills also compel me to have a deep gratitude for resurrection. Happy Easter.

Luann said...

I love the analogies you find in everyday things. You have a real talent for that. Happy Easter to you too. :)

Kazzy said...

Hey, I am just thrilled if my ground cover I planted comes back!

I love your way of thinking about the resurrection. The hope. The renewal. The second shot. I think we practice being resurrected every time we repent and start again.

Happy Easter, friend.

Melanie J said...

I love blue hydrangeas, too. This is a lovely thing for me to think about each time I see them. I love the metaphors we can find for death and rebirth everywhere in life if only we look just a little.

Kristina P. said...

I replaced a houseplant with a lamp. It's horrible.

Thanks for the beautiful Easter post!

Heidi Ashworth said...

I think there are many valuable analogies to life in gardening--it never ceases to amaze me. Thanks for this beautiful example.

LexiconLuvr said...

How beautifully you write.

I also lack a green thumb. I have to have plants that could survive in a cave (literally) or I wouldn't have living plants. I have had one for nearly 3 years and it's a great success for me. It's forgiven me for many near-death experiences too.

I'm just hoping that the great divine will do likewise for my stubborn soul.

Eowyn said...

I love hydrangeas. I didn't know you could grow them here.

Thanks for the analogy and the reminder.

Heather of the EO said...

I love your analogies too.

They always shed new light on something for me, making it a way for me to always remember.

(with the added bonus of thinking of you) :)

That Girl in Brazil said...

Hydrangeas are among my favorite flowers - along with tulips and lilies.

(Although I had no idea how to spell it. Thank you.)

(And I love your analogy. Good stuff, lady.)

Mrs4444 said...

Molly gave me a blue hydrangea as a graduation gift two years ago. AFter the first season, I thought it was dead and cut it to the ground, only to find (the next day) a leaf popping out of one that I missed. I had just needed patience. It survived in spite of me, thankfully :) Loved this post.

Becky said...

I'm a fellow plant killer. Plant killers of the world, unite!

Great analogy though. Hope your Easter was a good one.

pam said...

Beautiful analogy. Growing up in the Southwest, I didn't pay much attention to those seasonal changes. Now that I'm transplanted to the midwest, I look forward to those spring resurrections with great anticipation and celebration. Thanks for the reminder!

Kimberly said...

What a beautiful parallel, luv. I too am a plant killer, but I've never seen the beauty in it that you've found here.

Debbie said...

I wish I could write this well and develop analogies like you do. But, at least I can come here and enjoy yours.

LisAway said...

This is lovely. Thanks.

And (I'm serious here) I didn't know that those were hydrangeas. I'm terribly behind on knowing my flower names. I love them, though, how it's like a bush full of bouquets. And I love the blue best, too.

So now I know that they're hydrangeas and I'll always remember it and they'll remind me of you! :)

An Ordinary Mom said...

What a brilliant analogy! This gives me hope that someday I, too, can have a successful garden.

Brillig said...

Beautiful! I love the Easter analogy!

Brillig said...

(Don't you hate it when you write a comment, publish it, and THEN read everyone else's comments, only to learn that they all said the same thing that you said, but better? Sigh.)

(Still, I stick with my original comment. How to you always manage to make something ordinary-- like flower-killing-- into something deep and beautiful?)

Jessica said...

This is beautiful. I love the promise of the resurrection, seen all around us, even in spite of us. It reminds me that all dead things will be redeemed. What hope . . . thanks for the reminder. (Somehow glad that it's taken me this long to read it, I needed it most tonight :)