How’s your “praising receiving the No” project going? So far, I’m finding it pretty liberating. It’s still saying no that’s being hard for me. But gentle persistence will get me there.
Dear hearts –
Benedict of Nursia, founder of one of the greatest Christian monastic traditions, said, “Keep death daily before your eyes.”
Wow, you might be thinking, she’s really jumping in this morning. And I am. Keep death daily before your eyes. Or perhaps you’d prefer the famous image of the Buddhist monastic contemplating a skull.
I think of this concept quite often. Nearly every morning, in fact. But I don’t tend to think of it in terms of a skull or of the stereotypical image of the ascetic monk.
I think of it as I watch the roses in my garden every day at breakfast.
We have roses in every stage right now, from leaves just starting to turn up toward one another; little Grinch-headed buds; hippier and more swollen Grinch heads; the buds where the flower petals beneath are just beginning to show; the opening buds I watch with fascination each day, waiting for the ur-roses that emerge (the very Platonic image of a rose in half bloom, smelling sweetly and looking “perfectly” alive); the blousy and gracious flowers in repose; and the blown roses where when the wind picks up, petals fly a bit and land on the ground, slowly playing their own game of “he loves me-he loves me not.”
At our house, the roses have been deadheaded through their first two rounds of blooms, and they’ll probably get through at least one more round. But what I love about where they are is that there are so many different kinds of buds and blooms. The flowers are going through their whole cycle right before my eyes. And I love them in every season of their lives. Probably in the later fall, we’ll let them go to rose hips, but not now, not yet. Rose hips take as much as ten times the energy to produce that rose blooms do, but they make for yummy tea and food for birds. So we’ll see.
In Wicca, this entire season of the year is about relinquishment and ultimately about the observance of death and the ancestors we honor at Samhain (October 31). Lammas, the holiday we celebrated August 1-2, is the first harvest festival and the small, sneaky beginnings of fall. (The leaves on my lilac and dogwood are just just just here and there beginning to turn.)
That festival, Lammas, one of the great Celtic fire festivals, is when we celebrate the grain harvest and make bread, but few of us are farmers now. It is more an observance of voluntary relinquishment. It is the festival of “laying down the Wand,” or the scepter, rod, or staff of office and leadership. It is the first of the eight holidays on the Wheel of the Year to honor relinquishment.
As the Wheel turns toward Samhain, we come to the time of the relinquishment that comes for us all. Being born is our death sentence, after all.
For now, though, both life and death are before my eyes in the turning of our roses, the roses just outside the window. Nearly every day I remark on them. They make me so happy.
It’s not only those roses that are the perfect, juicily petaled flowers I love. My favorites are the roses in repose, the ones that will soon turn to passing and letting go. They look like beautiful silk skirts, more transparent than in their earlier stages, and more ready to let go of all that they have been to make room for the fruit to come. I watch them for that moment of letting go, of “dying,” though the plants themselves are still strong and healthy.
What is your favorite stage of your favorite flower, if you have one? Is it the lilac before the buds really open? Is it the lavender when its fragrance is sweetest? Is it the lily bud just before the flower bursts out one morning all of a sudden? The spring forsythia or the fall aster? The tropical hibiscus in its brilliant glory or the “minor” periwinkle that creeps across the ground?
And when do you love them?
When do you love them? Can you appreciate them in every stage of their lives, and in so doing, appreciate the stages of your own life? The Wheel turns, and one day, we too will lay down all that we have into the recycling power of Earth.
For now, though, I invite you just to consider where you are in life. How do you feel? Whom do you love and on whose love can you depend? Yes, of course, what have you done—but more than that, who have you been? And who, most important, are you now?
Blessings of the rose upon you, in every stage from birth to death, every blessing.
PS – Heartfelt thanks to Rev. Madelyn Campbell who has been so meticulously documenting the stages of her garden.