Have you ever seen a seedling start? It’s a tiny loop that sprouts like a ballerina, arching from soil to sky. Its embryonic stalk, translucent and pale, presents two itty bitty green leaves to the sun. When you root for something so tender, optimism is a reflex. You believe it’s entirely possible for a nascent plant to thrive. You don’t think about failure because you’re all in for the sprout.
On the other hand, consider the seedling I planted in our backyard many, many moons ago. It was a freebie from a preschool event and quickly forgotten. It grew into a proud magnolia, taller than our house and wider than the room where I watch it. Its big waxy leaves reflect all the light of the day. In the yawn of afternoon, even on a grey day, the Magnolia’s leaves shimmer like stars and teardrops. As long as the day bears light, they shine.
Last week I planted flower seeds in a wide stone pot. The first pin dot sprout emerged yesterday. A dozen acolytes appeared this morning. Several of the seeds are zinnias. Their blooms remind me of crayons, solid and colorful. A single zinnia seed can grow four feet tall with a two-foot girth. I know this because one of the zinnia seedlings I planted last summer survived.
I’ll always be in awe of seedlings, their tender little bodies and the way they unfurl when they break through soil. They’re so graceful. I’ll always thank my magnolia for the light show.
Writing about zinnias and magnolias came to mind for no particular reason. Originally, I thought only about seedlings. The flower and the tree just rolled in. Since I’m interested in the language of plants, I clicked around the internet and discovered that both the magnolia and the zinnia symbolize perseverance. This is either a coincidence or a sign. I’d like to believe that God is saying, “You are strong.” and “Keep it up.” This last year has been outrageously challenging. I’ve reached the point where deep faith and wraparound hope are required for living.
We lost Aunt Kay two days before Thanksgiving, saying goodbye with the furtive, spare gestures Covid requires. No touches or hugs. Illness on several fronts has shredded us. Like everyone, Covid has been a daily drip of pain and a collective torture.
My garden has been a touchstone for solace and hope during the pandemic, a refuge and a story. I feel things in the branches and blooms. When you love something so much, it sustains you, even if it’s green.
Thank you Maureen for these beautiful musings on nature. Nature supports and informs us in every day and every night of the thrill and splendor of being alive. Albert Einstein said “Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better.”
You are understanding a lot!
You understand and appreciate the natural world more than most of us. I love seeing your work on Eulalia. Enjoy this beautiful day! xo
Maureen, What a beautiful essay on life, and so elegantly written! You remind us all about the lessons Mother Nature teaches us: the need to start small, gain strength and size from the soil and our DNA, the values of persistence and tenacity, the joy of “looking up” to the Sun and letting its rays warm and nurture us. Thanks so much for sharing this with us!
Thank you, Maureen! Your elegant reply is lovely. Hope you and Henry are doing well. We certainly miss you. xoxo
Beautifully written, dear friend! I’m so glad you are back at writing on Catherine’s Table.
My heart goes out to you on the loss of Aunt Kay. I know how special she was to you.
Live has been turned upside down for us due to Covid. We sold East Hampton and NYC and are moving to Key Biscayne. Tom retired and it just feels like the best place to be for now.
Sending lots of love
Leslie, it’s so good to hear from you. Very happy about Tom’s retirement. I’m definitely interested in moving to a warm place in a few years. Key Biscayne sounds wonderful. Good luck with the move! xoxo, Maureen
Love how we connect through observing nature. I am enjoying your writing so much!!!
Joni, Thank you! I am so happy we met. xoxo, Maureen
So lovely. Your writing gives me the feeling of being there. Thanks!
Thank you so much, Kacy!xoxo
I love your writing and your message! Love the mention of sweet Kaye!
Thanks Hollie! I hope to catch up with you soon. xo
This was lovely, Maureen. It touched me as I, too, love to watch a seedling grow, or a flower stalk emerge from a bulb and grow tall to finally open with a magnificent flower.
Our garden here in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia was truly a blessing during COVID. It may be because we’d had a cooler Spring and more rain than usual, but it was unbelievably beautiful and Tom and I enjoyed it daily and were so Thankful!
I miss you…
Diane, it is so good to hear from you. I hope your garden is abundant this spring. I miss you too!
Dear Maureen, I found “Seedlings, Signs, and Perseverance” very comforting but yet, highly motivating. It’s New Year’s Eve 2021. This day each year causes me to pause and give thanks, while at the same time my mind is looking forward to the ideas and opportunities that lie ahead. I can’t wait to see one break through the surface and into full bloom. Happy New Year! Thank you for Catherine’s Table, the stores and lessons, and most of all the opportunity to visit.
Bob, I really appreciate you sharing your thoughts! I hope 2022 is a very good year for you.