Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Cut Bouquet

The camera "disappeared" (i.e., I forgot where I'd put it), and I just "found" it today. So this is not a recent photo. It was made just over two weeks ago, of the few daffodils that bloomed in our little backyard. There was a freeze warning for that night, so I cut them and brought them in. And saw the photo today for the first time.

Now here comes evidence of the amazing power of projection. Because when I looked at this photo, while my first thought was, "Oh, look, the sweet daffodils! I'd forgotten I took that picture," and then, "Wow, this makes the windows look even dirtier than I realized they were," my mind quickly went to other things.

I thought how sad for the flowers to have been cut off from their stem, their roots, taken out of the dirt they lived in, away from fresh air and sunshine. Away from the only world they knew, and brought into this space where even the sunlight they get is indirect and comes to them through dirty windows, blurring the view.

I thought how often I have felt that way. Whether it was moving to a new place (whether a dormitory or a country), or losing a job, or losing a friendship that had meant a lot, or via depression losing the ability to enjoy life and feel like my normal self....All kinds of situations can feel like being cut off from oneself and from life as it had been.

And then I remembered beloved Mr. Woodroof, who preached in the church of my growing up for many years, and his talking about the inadequacy of offering someone a "cut-bouquet religion." How it isn't enough to give someone all the information about faith, without helping them actually develop their own faith that takes root and grows way after the original handing down process occurs.

And then I thought about my recent re-reading of The Great Divorce, in which Lewis does such a wonderful job of visually describing spiritual concepts of life and death, freedom and enslavement, selflessness and self-absorption. And especially the sense of joy and glory at being in the presence of the Source of Life and Joy and Glory. The strength and realness that come from being connected to ultimate Reality, the personal God who created the first garden that all living things come from, and who will one day restore all things to their original glory.

So, I looked at this little image of daffodils in the windowsill and thought how our whole life on earth is like that, in a way. We see through a glass darkly. We have some faint form of remembrance of another way of life, of being truly alive. We yearn, and if we don't kill the yearning, we have some hope of it even in this life, the more rooted we become in the Source. And we look forward to the glorious time when "we shall be changed" and the perishable becomes imperishable, when Easter resurrection becomes a shared experience, not a historic event only.

And I was just thinking, "But the flowers can never regain that aliveness! It isn't fair!" (I also encountered an ailing bird earlier this morning while walking, who didn't even try to move away from my friend and me, so I think my sympathetic capacity for innocent creatures was in overdrive.) And realized that of course they can, and they will. Because they eventually wilted and died, and I put them in the compost, and before long they will go back into the earth, and be again a part of something that grows and lives in that very real world that in the moment of the photo they could only remember and look at through the window.

(I am not writing well, just thinking "out loud." Oh dear, I was about to write, "out loud--on paper," because I'm not of course saying this aloud--then realized I'm not writing on paper at all. Now I'm feeling even more detached from reality!)

And just as the flowers have to die to live again, so do we. And the people I know who've done the most dying to themselves are the most "alive" people I know. Their willing-to-die way of life allows them to see through the window, beyond the window, even into the dust and grime of the window of this world, to the Reality that makes it all possible. They are connected to the earth, the sky, the light, the wind. To the Spirit who gives life. And if they get cut off and disconnected by circumstnaces, they know it is only temporary.

So, I think I can now look at this photo without that melancholic feel it gave me earlier. Any image is never the whole story.

But I do think I'll clean the windows as soon as I can.


Sheila said...

By the way, our windows are not as dirty as this makes them look. Something about the lighting make it look much worse than it does from the room in real life!

Anonymous said...

I can identify with a lot of this. I love the way you pictured helping someone put roots on their faith. I need to stop by your blog more often!

Lucy said...

'A man who looks on glass
On it may stay his eye...'

(I've had that on the brain for weeks, now you made me think of it again, and the earworm will start to wiggle once more!)

The first thing I thought was how beautifully the yellow of the daffodils stood out against the silveriness of the windows - they really don't look especially dirty, photos always do that. Mine on the other hand really are dirty!

Nature is generous, puts out far more flowers than the plant needs. Bulb plants don't even need to set much seed anyway, since they go on growing and flourishing vegetatively underground. You could make all kinds of metaphors from your bunch of daffs - yes, they pass a bit more quickly, but they live in warmth and joy under our appreciative gaze. They are kept to be loved and saved from frost and things which might otherwise crush, break or eat them (though in fact they are quite hardy to frost and nothing eats them because they're tough buggers which taste nasty!). We made them as they are anyway, for our delight. The price of sacrificing a few blooms is worth it for the evolutionary success they achieve by co-operating with us and allowing us to influence their development, which is why they are such glorious effulgent things with orangey centres and great big petals, all protected and cherished in our gardens, rather than the little starry things that live in the wood.

But I'm careful with all flowers, only to take what I think they can safely spare, a tithe, as it were, and most of all to be deeply grateful for them, for their beauty and for my wonder at it, and indeed for the kind of meditation they might inspire as they have for you here.

Sorry to go on so!