GUEST COLUMN: The spiritual pleasure (and poetry) of flowers – Wicked Local

Since we have experienced the winter solstice, I'll take this opportunity to move halfway around the cycle of the seasons backward or forward to celebrate the season of growth and abundance.

Since we have experienced the winter solstice, I'll take this opportunity to move halfway around the cycle of the seasons backward or forward to celebrate the season of growth and abundance. I've been growing a perennial flower garden for a decade and a half. If there is anything more spiritual than growth, I dont know what it is. If there is anything more blatantly dedicated to growth than a plant ditto.

If you grow daylilies, the first weeks after the summer solstice will be a kind of Christmas in July. Many varieties of daylilies bloom in this mid-summer period, a season I love and wait for each year, but also experience with a kind of anticipated regret, knowing that each passing day according to the iron law of this hard-blooming species means that we gardeners and flower-lovers will lose the previous days entire cohort of these beautiful warriors in the battle to bring color and a fundamentally indescribable materiality into existence. This is what we mean, I think, when we speak of loving flowers: taking pleasure in living things that succeed on planet earth century after century, millennia after millennia, simply by making themselves appear attractive to species of an entirely different order of being!

This is what flowering green plants do: They attract the attention of other living things to help spread their seed and disseminate the means to perpetuate the species; in effect carrying out the same responsibility the higher animals do when we mate, reproduce, and guard our offspring with our lives. This is how we keep the world going round, obeying a command of our deepest nature. The example of flowering plants suggests that beauty, growth, the urge to survive, and the instincts to do it are all means toward achieving a single, universal goal to enable and perpetuate life.

If flowering plants have a religion, that's it. And, of course, they express it so beautifully. This is why, perhaps, some of us get wrapped up in the success, or (sad to say) failure, of so many of the plants we spend the summer with. We desire to know how well our favorites take daylilies, again are going to perform in a given season. It excites me, pleases me, to notice that the most common member of this family, the native orange-blooming so-called ditch lily, has spread its offspring to some corner of the garden where it hasn't appeared before.

In our garden plants can spread out or disseminate, or send forth new colonies, or adopt new family members into their neighborhood, because I am a lax disciplinarian and a liberal-minded ruler. Few dominions are fixed. Natural selection is given room to operate here. Things grow, expand, march forth, occupy territory. Some decline in numbers, and unfortunately a few disappear. I try to protect the smaller and more vulnerable species, but I am a distractable god, and a forgettable one, and can't keep track of everyone.

A garden (at least ours) is a living kingdom. When the echinacea or the tall phlox jump to a place near the white fence that once was occupied by what? I don't think I remember I respond philosophically. The plants in our modestly sized yard (where most people plant grass we planted flowers, shrubs, and a couple of small trees) are inspirations, not show dogs. Some of them are mutts, visitors from elsewhere who stayed. They are exempla of freedom and possibility; birth, beauty and death. Of change and the river of time. They are shooting out blossoms, firing the flower and fruit of their nature.

Reach for the skies, people. I'm with you in spirit.

A funny thing has happened in the years since I planted this garden. I began writing poems, a lot of them, a thing absent from my life for decades. This is what I think: Growing involves one intimately with the seasons. The seasons consistently faithfully give rise to certain kinds of thoughts. Thoughts that sometimes, I find, give rise to poems.

In fact, I celebrate this time of year the season of the beautiful dark as well as the time of long days and bright colors. Im drawn to the stirring pageant of the early sunsets and lingering twilights that steal the scene so impossibly early that we stop to exclaim, Where has the day gone? Though we know the answer: to the other side of the earth.

But, ah, evening. Wings of darkness closing about us. Sometimes it can feel gentle, protective, maternal, a gathering-in by nature of her children, a bedding down of the soul. I will put this effort to bed with a poem that aspires to suggest the spirituality of home, caring, family (and, perhaps, familiarity) and an enduring faith in the seasons.

Resignation at Dusk

One of those still and silent twilights,

a kiss goodnight from the earth's persistence

No one will take a vote on the sky

The pink lip along the thickly treed horizon,

the soft pouch of leafage, upturned like gloved hands

to take us down to where it is safe, and beautiful

and sky kisses earth goodnight and chants,

slowly,

the prayer for forgiveness, the prayer for gentle touches,

the prayer for deeper, dream-filled journeys,

the prayer for better selves,

the remembrance of best love, held hands,

love domestic...

like secret things told

to a child.

("Resignation at Dusk" was published by 3288 Review, Spring 2019)

Bob Knox is a freelance journalist and author and a former assistant editor of the Old Colony Memorial.

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GUEST COLUMN: The spiritual pleasure (and poetry) of flowers - Wicked Local

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