A few days ago in my post “Survivors,” I wrote about my cuttings that survived the winter. I was particularly fond of the Tall Sedum (pictured bottom left). Its four leaves reminded me of a propeller that was just waiting to be launched into spring. Imagine my dismay yesterday, when three of the leaves fell off, and the remaining one turned yellow. I was about to pull the cutting with a sigh, when I noticed new life growing at the base of the stem.
Speaking of misleading appearances, here is a true story: My husband and I had our careers in the San Francisco Bay Area, where people who don’t know each other keep to themselves and avoid eye when passing on the sidewalk. When we moved to Southern New Mexico, I was shocked when a stranger smiled at me and said, ‘Hello.” One day soon after when I was walking from the parking lot to the side door of Walmart, I became aware of a biker (in leather with multiple tattoos and piercings) closing in quickly behind me. There was no one else nearby, so I became a little nervous as he drew nearer. Imagine my surprise when he rushed ahead to open the door for me.
Honestly, Gentle Reader, this really happened in the Land of Enchantment.
Distressing times in our nation and in the world. Now, in the dead of winter, the temperature drops below freezing every night. Yet, the violets are thinking about spring. The original plants, given to me by a friend, have long since died. They didn’t like the location where I planted them. However, they lived long enough to seed the surrounding area, and ever since, their offspring have delighted me year after year. Before the end of the month, they will be covered in blossoms.
I still believe in faith.
I still believe in hope.
I still believe in love.
As I look forward to 2021, I am starting to think about new life in the garden. All of my rose geranium, mint, and sweet potato cuttings have survived the winter in my studio (so far). Outside, the rosemary and dianthus cuttings are doing well, as well as a single cutting from my neighbor’s orange jubilee bush and a tiny volunteer from her golden ball lead tree.
On the other hand, all of my efforts with salvia cuttings have failed, and only one tall sedum and two citronella cuttings have survived. Today, I cleaned out all the failures. If the survivors can only stay alive for another two months….
Although it’s too early to plant seeds, I couldn’t resist opening my seed box to admire the contents — some carefully gathered by hand last summer, others ordered by mail, and others, alas, probably too old to germinate. In any case, they all look beautiful to me.
(This post was originally published back in March. Here it is again for the Christmas Season.)
Have you ever heard that the date for Christmas (December 25) was selected to coincide with a pagan holiday? Don’t believe it. The calculation is actually based on Scripture.
Every year on March 25, the Church celebrates the day when the Angel Gabriel announced the conception of the Christ to Mary. March 25 is exactly nine months prior to December 25. To see how the date for Christmas was calculated, first we need to go back to September 25, when the Angel Gabriel announced the birth of John the Baptist to Zechariah. (Remember, during the Annunciation to Mary, Gabriel tells Mary that her cousin Elizabeth has also conceived, and Elizabeth is in her sixth month. See Luke 1:36. September 25 is six months prior to March 25.)
September 25 fell at the end of the Jewish season of Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. (The date for the Day of Atonement falls on the tenth day of the seventh month of the Hebrew calendar. It varies from year to year, falling in September or October.) During the ten day period prior to the Day of Atonement, Jews amended their behavior, prayed, repented, and gave to charity, in order to seek forgiveness from God.
According to Luke 1:9, Zechariah was chosen by lot to enter the sanctuary to burn incense. The Jewish priests could only enter the Holy of Holies once a year on the Day of Atonement. (See Ex. 30:7-10.) Gabriel says to Zechariah, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, because your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall name him John.” (Luke 1:13)
So, here is the timeline:
September 25 – Gabriel announces the birth of John the Baptist to Zechariah.
March 25 (six months from September 25) – Gabriel announces the birth of Jesus to Mary.
June 24 (nine months from September 25) – the Church celebrates the birth of John the Baptist.
December 25 (nine months from March 25) – the Church celebrates the birth of Jesus.
Yesterday was the Second Sunday of Advent, so my husband lighted two candles after I read the prayer. In another week, he will light three candles, and finally during the last week of Advent, he will light four candles every evening until Christmas.
While the days are growing shorter and darker outside, the light is still increasing. Inside, my table-top trees light up the house. Outside, every evening more and more Christmas lights appear in the neighborhood. While we await the Nativity of Jesus once again, He is already here.
As Thanksgiving Day approaches, I’m thinking of all the people who will be alone during the upcoming holidays. After I was orphaned as a teenager, I was alone for many years, even when I was surrounded by people. I know how it feels to be alone. Holidays were the worst.
Whoever you are, and wherever you are, I will be praying for you. If hope eludes you, please know that I will be hoping on your behalf.
If you believe in God, I encourage you to pray for yourself and others. If you don’t believe in God, I encourage you to pray as if youdid.
St. Teresa of Avila’s Bookmark:
Let nothing disturb you;
Let nothing frighten you.
All things pass;
God never changes.
Patience obtains all things.
The one who has God
God alone suffices.
Just when I thought my perennials were going dormant for the winter, the warm afternoons breathed new life into them. The Scabiosa is putting out blossoms, and the Cherry Sage is covered with new color.
The Violets and Vinca are raring to go too, although they won’t bloom until spring.
A neighbor recently commented on the unusual patterns of color we are seeing this year on the autumn leaves in our neighborhood. She attributed them to our unseasonal snowstorm and freeze a few weeks ago. I hadn’t noticed the unusual patterns, but I was glad she brought them to my attention. I was reminded of the poem “Pied Beauty” by Gerard Manley Hopkins in which he gives glory to God for dappled things and…
...All things counter, original, spare, strange;
Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)
At the same time, there is beauty in monochrome. In our backyard, the ash trees simply ignored the snowstorm. The leaves were green before the storm, and they remained so after the snow and ice melted. Now, they have turned to their reliable shade of gold.
The memory of our October snow has faded. Now in November, a few shrubs and plants are blooming outside — nothing to write home about — so I have turned my attention to my indoor gardens. At the grocery store, I bought yellow, pink, and orange Kalanchoe to grace the side table in our atrium. A five-dollar bouquet of lilies from Walmart cheers the living room, and a floral jigsaw puzzle dominates the dining room table.
Apparently, I am easily entertained — as long as there are flowers.