I’m always surprised at what plant life is capable of. After our week-long vacation at the end of June, we returned home to a veritable jungle of vegetation.
The limbs on the Rose of Sharon bushes on either side of the front porch were so long and weighed down by blooms that a person had to hold them aside—like a rainforest explorer armed with a machete—just to walk down the porch steps.
Weeds—purge, crabgrass, woodsorrel—had used our absence to invade our stone walkway and flower beds. Patches of dandelions and clover were brazenly scattered across our yard.
When we came home from our trip, I walked around our yard looking at the ways it had changed in the past 7 days. One of the first things I saw was in a mostly ignored corner flower bed at the edge of our yard.
Realizing this spot was far from the garden hose, we had planted low maintenance rose bushes there. We knew it wouldn’t get much attention. Last summer, I planted two plants just behind the roses. These were given to me for free by a master gardener at the farmers’ market. (How do I know she was a master gardener? I think she had a nametag.)
Seeing that I am not a master gardener, I don’t even know what these plants are. The woman told me that they grow well in full sun and were easy to keep alive. As long as it wasn’t marijuana I was satisfied with her information.
To my untrained eye, I think they look like hostas now, but when I got them they were little dirt balls with a bit of green leaves stuffed in a Kroger bag. I planted them and totally forgot about them.
In spite of my ignorance and negligence, during our vacation they bloomed into a radiant yellow and fire-orange flower. The sight of it took my breath away, like an astonishing magic trick. I nearly expected that the flower appeared in a puff of smoke at the end of a wand.
There is something magical and admirable and astonishing and honorable when something (or someone) beats the odds to succeed. When the expected failure is an unexpected triumph. When a dirt ball grows into a stunning flower. When a tiny seed sprouts to crack a concrete sidewalk.
Growth isn’t always inevitable. It requires a strength that is sometimes hard to find.
When I watch our son Ezra play with his toys, his imagination soaring to heights beyond what he’s ever seen, I consider how this wasn’t inevitable. Born in an impoverished nation. Parentless as an infant. His first five years spent without a family. Ezra has every reason not to bloom. And yet he grows stronger every day. He finds joy in simple activities.
When he plays alone with his toys (or in place of toys, anything else he can find—scraps of paper or sticks or coins), he uses this high-pitched voice that signals to us he’s in a new place. He’s entered his imagination zone where someone needs saving and there are bad guys and it’s more fun if the toys are arranged in a straight line.
He’s our stunning yellow-orange flower, because the most impressive growth is often found in unexpected places.