Take plants, for example. When I was a small child, my brother and I rolled down a hill in the backyard of our home. It was covered with soft grass, the kind located in abundance in the Midwest. After tumbling head over heels, we would rise to our feet, giggling and spitting out the pieces of grass that had collected on our lips.
A few years later, when I was fraught with teen angst, I often ran a gravel-covered mile on an old country road. Tall slender guarded green stalks of corn lined the route as I traveled to a gurgling brook. The curvy creek was filled with clear water that rolled over rounded pebbles, little speckled faces that greeted me as I bent to touch the rippled surface.
When I was married the first time at twenty-one years old, I walked up the aisle to an altar flanked by blossom-covered twigs from Dogwood trees. Their white reflections bounced off brass candle sticks. It was spring.
That first year together, my new husband and I spent hours sketching green plants, natures little gifts sprawling masterfully in forest areas surrounding our small town. I have the fondest memories of spying on countless wildflowers, Dutchman Britches laden with blooms, tiny yellow and white pants hovering upside down above leafy green foliage, and pink Phlox flowers, their heady sweet fragrance permeating the air.
One summer, twelve years later, with tears streaming down my face, I stood twenty feet away from a huge Oak in my yard. Considering no other action to dissipate the anger I felt over the demise of my marriage, I threw rocks at it.
Rarely did a stone touch the trunk of that ancient tree; My aim was terrible. And yet, when one did, I dropped to my knees apologizing to the broad-trunked grandfather who did not flinch at my outbursts and never once withdrew his limbs from me.
More than forty years after those youthful experiences, I reflect on the many winter months spent in northern climates when plants seek refuge in the crusted soil for warmth and protection. During the gray days of December, green is a rare sight, except for the wispy needles of Blue Spruce and White Pine.
Steadfast and resilient, the conifers persist no matter what frozen party nature throws at them. Is it any wonder the Pine tree is revered and given a special place in everyone’s home during the darkest days of the year? Annually, we are provided with a symbol for life’s resilience.
Now that I live in the south, I continue to be in awe of the grace of green. For example, a storm can arrive in a fit of fury one moment. Then, six months later, the Sable Palms right themselves, the Sea Grapes return to painting rainbows on their leaves and the Mangroves lining the riverbanks strengthen their hold so they may once again protect newborn swimmers at play in their root-strewn nurseries.
Throughout our entire lives, you and I are surrounded by the some of the earth’s most precious contributions. We are fed, nurtured and sheltered by countless green things. To acknowledge that we are part of the “interconnected web of life” is to recognize that we have been rewarded repeatedly, regardless of whether we have deserved it or not.
A most honorable response is required. At the very least, may we demonstrate gratitude for what we have received. At the most, might we promise to take drastic measures to do all we can to protect what the earth has bestowed on us.
In the days ahead, when most of us are hunkered down in our homes, I hope you’ll take some time to consider how plants have been an important part of your life, how you have been nurtured, loved and yes, maybe even forgiven by the grace of all things green.
Have you ever stopped to consider the persistent presence of plants throughout your life? How have plants been with you as you grew from childhood to adulthood? I’d like to hear from you. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org