the flowers bend their bright bodies,
and tip their fragrance to the air,
their red stems holding
all that dampness and recklessness
gladly and lightly,
and there it is again —
beauty the brave, the exemplary,
Do you love this world?
–excerpt “Peonies” by Mary Oliver*
Loving the world feels like a difficult topic to write about today when I see news coverage of the recent oil spill in Santa Barbara and read about the dolphins dying. It can be easy to start to feel discouraged and hopeless in the face of such destruction and lack of love for the earth, our precious, irreplaceable home.
I have often noted that while I definitely enjoy seeing my rosebush bloom and seeing beautiful flowers at other people’s houses, one of my favorite things about spring and summer is discovering what the earth has planted for us on her own. However, like the iris above that I spotted blooming by the side of the gravel road today (not by a house), I also think about the lasting imprint of the things we plant around our homes, perhaps one of our most lasting legacies.
When I wrote my final reflection for my Ecology and the Sacred class, I included this reflection on those things we plant…
…on the same road on which we live, there are several former homesites, with a variety of introduced plant life that continues to bloom each year. Around the corner from us is a ramshackle house that has not been inhabited for about 50 years. It has a gorgeous flowering quince that blooms each spring and dozens and dozens of iris bloom as well, making bright spots of color barely visible through the trees that have grown up to nearly cover the house. The home in which my parents live (one mile away) is a restored log cabin originally built in 1899 and moved to the current location from a spot out by the gravel road. Jonquils had been planted along the front of the house and in the yard area (so, sometime during the early 1900’s, I would imagine) and those jonquils continue to bloom each year in the now-woods and by my parents’ house, where my mom transplanted some originals along with the house itself.
When driving down the gravel road in the springtime, there is another location of a previous home that is only identifiable visually when the jonquils bloom and as their yellow glow catches your eye through the trees, you can also see a small footer of a crumbled foundation nearby, indicating they were once planted in front of a home. I am struck by the fact that this rosebush and tulip tree that I’ve introduced to my own home landscape may well outlast us and our entire home and may indeed be our most lasting “legacy” on this patch of earth…
And, recently, I read this beautiful reflection by Jodi Sky Rogers about the traces we leave behind:
…So I hope that the traces I leave behind will reflect all these things that I carry in my heart. I pray that I find ways to leave behind a trail of petals that touch, inspire and heal those who I meet along my path – delicate heart-shaped petals that are imbued with love and good intentions. And should they fall on futile ground, may they turn to dust and return to the Earth as a nourishing gift for all that she gives me.
This iris that I saw this morning, blooming despite many landscape changes, felt like a reminder that the traces we leave behind can be beautiful, tenacious, graceful, and loving and I appreciated its message.
“The world is holy. We are holy. All life is holy. Daily prayers are delivered on the lips of breaking waves, the whisperings of grasses, the shimmering of leaves.”
~Terry Tempest Williams