For his anger lasts only a moment, but his favor lasts a lifetime. Weeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.
Psalm 30:5

Monday, May 28, 2012

If wildflowers could speak...

Hiking through the woods yesterday during our day waterfalling trip to Fall Creek Falls, I noticed that we were walking through a corridor of what I thought were Rhododendron bushes. Immediately, it came to mind the last time we saw Rhododendron bushes. That was early last Fall, during our Fall break trip to the Great Smoky Mountains. Then, the Rhododendrons were not in bloom. I remember us trying to match what was written in the nature guide leaflet with what we were observing around us. There were none of the blooms described, nor their accompanying fragrance. We managed, though, to recognize its leaves – very dark green, round-tipped, medium sized and distinctly waxy. I remember us making a mental note to revisit those Smoky Mountains woods again, perhaps in spring when the flowers would be blooming.

Rhododendrons at Cheekwood Botanical Gardens

Alas, all that came to mind in an unrelenting wave yesterday, more or less sparked off by that stroll through the Rhododendron corridor. Later that night, curled up in bed trying to identify the names of the wildflowers I had seen and taken photographs of, I felt that regret once again. These were summer wildflowers I was identifying… what about the spring ones? How could we have lived through an entire spring, without taking some just-to-see-the-wildflowers walks? And how nice, I thought, if we had gone for an early April trip to the Smoky Mountains!

Rhododendrons at Cheekwood again, intensely red

I know it was just over wildflowers, and if you are not as wild over flowers as I am, this may sound highly uncalled for and exaggerated. Still, an intense sense of regret I did feel, and it was over wildflowers.

And it made me think (as I was kneading a bowl of bread dough just an hour ago) about this thing called regret. I’ve definitely encountered regret in many more circumstances than what is purely botanical. I’ve regretted plenty of bad decisions and wasted hours, friends slighted and words spoken and left unsaid. I’ve regretted hurting others by all of the above, or not having chosen the way of love.

Tulips at Cheekwood

But, as God’s providence would have it, the humble wildflower, by way of their absence, has a sermon for me. The truth is, though spring was a very busy month for me, with many school deadlines and some social events, we did try to take walks at our favorite parks in the Nashville area. We do have precious memories of spotting wildflowers in early spring, with a gallery of photographs to show for it (some featured here). We even went to the botanical gardens to catch the tulips in bloom, and made it a point to check on the newest openings at nearby Scarritt-Bennett Center. The truth is, we had been overwhelmed all spring by flowers, wild or not.

In early spring, flowering trees were everywhere

Then comes this little thing that tries to discount all of that, and make me obsessed over that one thing that wasn’t mine to have. Be thankful, I heard the absent wildflowers say. There is always so much more to have, to have been able to have had. Just be thankful, was their whisper from one season ago.

Narcissus flowers gazing over a stream at Edwin Warner Park

Also, there is that little dichotomy between what I want and what I need. What exactly had I been doing all spring, I found myself asking last night, as I contemplated the pink lady slipper* I hadn’t gone to seek out. Well, the truth is that I had been working hard on all my assignments, going in to my practicum site two to three times a week, still making sure Sundays were free for some leisure time, having my hands full, and enjoying every bit of it. In all honesty, I was fully convinced of how I wanted to spend those April days, and this was especially true, of all times, during those April days.  I remember reading somewhere that regret can be countered by knowing that whatever we found ourselves with at those times when we thought later there could have been an instead, was exactly what we needed then. In view of providence, this can be seen to be true. Even regrets about bad decisions can be seen that way, when they are looked upon as opportunities through which we learned. After all, we all do need to learn. And, recognizing our need to learn acknowledges that we are fraught with human weakness; so fraught that we often know not what we need.

A crowd of curious Pansy faces

Aren’t those wildflowers verbose? But there’s more. Well, just a little. Don’t feel too bad that you didn’t come to see us this spring, they seem to say, but we missed you still! And with a dainty, demure nod of their tiny heads, they end their sermon and vanish. So next time, if I can, I’ll definitely reserve a few more spots in my weekly planner for wildflowers. But I may not be able to. And if I can’t, I’ll have to take that, too, in my stride, as my wildflower friends preach. 

*Pink Lady slipper is a wildflower from the Orchid family, found in east Tennessee

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