(NB: For those of my readers who are UU’s, please know that I am not remaining silent on white-favoring hiring practices and lack of professional support in the UUA out of a desire to ignore, downplay, or otherwise diminish the importance of recent events. I am quiet for two reasons which I will explain below.)
Bloom after Bloom
I love flowers passionately. I learned to love them from my father. And it is flowers who so often draw me into awe and wonder in the face of the “forms most beautiful” of the natural world.
I don’t know whether my father called it “The Procession of Flowers,” but I have always thought of the experience of the flowers blooming in their ranks, my father, and that name, all together. His neckties were often floral and he loved both the flowers of spring and the turning leaves or fall. We loved to drive together and point them out as we traveled the central Pennsylvania landscape where I grew up.
The season is moving fast from mid-spring Ostara to the beginning of summer at Beltaine. And here in the Pacific Northwest, I look out my window, where the crocuses have passed, and I see the magnolia next door.
Go less than a block and you’ll be wrapped in cherry blossoms, see the daffydowndillies and the pink tulips blooming together. Everywhere is white and shell pink. Or the violet of the tight hyacinth blossoms and the sunny petals of the forsythia.
Soon the azaleas, the rhododendrons in their very own great city garden, and the roses for which this city is famed, will come out, group by group, flowers processing after flowers.
“I Feel It in the Water…”
The little quotation above is from The Lord of the Rings. It is spoken by an ancient creature who cares most of all for the woods, talking about the world changing irrevocably. JRR Tolkien, the writer of that book, wrote at a time of environmental destruction. Forests were being cut down for railways and furnaces and everywhere he looked, he saw the landscape he loved ravaged.
We had the wettest February on record, here in Portland, and December-through-February rain was over 25 inches. The characteristic Pacific Northwest moss is thick on the risers of our front steps. There’s been little in the way of sun of late, though we’ve had a few shiny days.
We’ve been damp, and we’ve even had more snow than is usual for this part
of the world. The snowpack on the Cascades is more than thick, but we certainly haven’t had the ups and downs of much of the rest of the country or the larger world.
As climate change marches on, the weather will continue to alter and become more chaotic. Time-keepers like the procession of flowers will no longer function as they used to. As they do now for me.
I love the procession of flowers. I love that while there are many plants here that are unfamiliar to me or that grow differently “Back East”—see euphorbia, which I tried to grow in DC and it was all leggy and miserable, whereas here it grows in great bursts of glorious, tall, multi-hued green—there are still many flowers I recognize.
I can still count on crocuses – hyacinths – daffodils – tulips. I can still trust that the summer will be filled with roses, including the ones I love best. Those are on a vine that grows up a telephone pole outside our house. I don’t even know whether someone planted them! Probably so, but I love the idea of their being volunteers.
What’s Love Got to Do with It?
How will the procession of flowers change where you live, as the climate continues to change? If you have flowers infrequently, will their precious blooms become more or less frequent? If beneficial pollinators continue to die off, like our precious honeybees, what will that mean where you live? What will it mean for the nation? For the world?
These are the questions that came to me as we drove down one of my favorite flowering street—yes, the street itself seems to be in bloom—in a city full of them.
I love the flowers. I love the bees. I love the soil microbes that keep us alive! The bacteria in our guts. The trees, o great friends! The eternal question remains, however, what is love? Or is love enough?
But I have not, to date, loved all these necessary siblings enough, not in my bones, not enough to radically change my lifestyle. And yes, the flowers are our siblings, so are soil microbes! And yes, for me, it is flowers that draw me in. For others it is the grizzly bear or the manatee (newly off the endangered species list!).
The environment, sustainability, permaculture…these are words I know and ways of being I care about. And I know that if we don’t do more than care in some abstract way, our livable habitat will shrink, war will increase, more and more will become refugees and die in the struggle…
And where will the flowers be then?
As to that nota bene at the top of this piece. Why was this blog post about spring, and not about racism, Rev. Morales’ resignation, or anything else rocking the UU universe?
One, I am spending time listening carefully to my friends and colleagues of color. I don’t know how many more white voices we need to have in the discussion.
Two, let me put a big trigger warning here for sexual assault survivors.
Two is that Ron Robinson, a prominent Christian UU working in an underserved portion of North Tulsa, was caught in a sting. He has confessed to receiving child pornography, child exploitation, and to other things I will not mention here.
I am a survivor of pre-pubescent sexual assault. It is important to me not to be silent about Robinson’s actions. And I have been in emergency-phase trigger mode for the last couple of days.
Writing has been hard but I am showing up to the “page,” as it were. Here we are together. Here we are.