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.