From today's TIMES and NEWS-STAR
Did you ever pay attention, in your 20s, to a flower? If you are 30 or older, when you look back on your younger days, do you imagine this rose or that one, this azalea, that pistachio or crabapple tree, and how your heart longs to go back and … ?
Shoot, no. Me either.
Until I was deep into my 30s, I can never remember looking for any length of time at a plant or at a flower, not unless it was on the communion table in front of the pulpit. There were always pretty flowers on Sunday mornings, often left over from a wedding or a funeral. And they were right there so you almost had to look at them, unless you wanted to stare at the baptistery or at the hairdo in front of you. People my age know the visual challenges that come with sitting behind a beehive.
Way back then, the only other time I remember looking at flowers or shrubs is if my golf ball was in one.
We had a garden when I was a boy, annually. Lots of stuff grew. I don’t recall it being pretty. It was more of a rural appreciation for things you could eat. To most people in my hometown, a ripe tomato carried a lot more weight in the Pretty Department than an orchid, now that I think about it.
Also we were a shrub people. Low maintenance. Easy to mow around. Dependable. So we cut grass and pruned shrubs and tended gardens and saw flowers on Sundays and in magazines. Tobacco and soybean and corn fields were our begonias.
But with age comes an appreciation for things you’ve been looking at all your life but not seeing. Spring is a little different to us now than it was Back Then. I hope I appreciate color and texture more and just how odd it is, and unexplainable, that this keeps happening over and over.
The father of a son, I used to watch boys grow. But since I haven’t been to many little-boy ball practices lately, there’s a bit more time to pay attention to this thing I planted in my back yard late last winter called, I think, a purple leaf plum, and another called a forest pansy redbud. They are small trees. I hate to use the word “excited” but I was close to that when I saw actual purple leaves on the plum tree. How does it do that? I have not seen forest pansy leaves or any kind of leaves on the redbud and hope the frost or me personally didn’t kill it over the winter, but I think there are buds there. As the sun is doing around here after all the rain, my tree is trying.
The temperamental dogwood and a pink-leaved peach tree, both sophomores, are trying too. What if these things actually live and keep blooming every March? What if I actually live and get to see it? Daily Double!
But once they bloom, will I forget about them? It’s natural to take beauty, often viewed, for granted. Infants are too wise for that; what people who are tiny in age do is see the same things over and over again, but as if for the first time.
An Englishman named G. K. Chesterton lived from 1874 to 1936. A newspaper editor for much of that time, he wrote thousands of essays and, because he weighed about 400 pounds and was absent-minded, developed a reputation of having both a genius and a personality hard to fence in. Witty, you ask?. He’s credited with jewels like “Vice demands virgins,” and “The worst moment for an atheist is when he is really thankful and has no one to thank.”
An essay I read about him this week came at just the right time for me: springtime. His warned me not to miss it.
God, Chesterton wrote, “is strong enough to exult in monotony. It is possible that God says every morning, ‘Do it again’ to the sun; and every evening, ‘Do it again’ to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them. It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we are.”