As spring finally settled in this year, I drove down to the arboretum to explore. Each year I remember where I previously captured moments of unexpected delight: a carpet of giant crocus lining the walkway between hedges, Siberian iris and snowdrops merging together with evergreens, fuzzy pastel pasque flowers, tulips glowing like lampshades filled with sunshine.
Could I take a better photo than the one took back then? Could I get a do-over? Will I miss out on a particular bloom because I waited too long to visit?
Wistfulness, anxiety and compulsiveness run on a constant loop.
Then, I actually start my exploration. I revisit places those places of wonder, expecting the same delight. Instead, I’m greeted with change and slight disappointment. Gardens evolve. Change is constant.
I want to go back to the place of beauty, but that place is no longer the same. There’s nothing to recapture or recreate, because the landscape changed with time.
Similarities, yes. Tulips still bloom, as do the lilacs and roses and lilies. And yet, they’re different each year and so is the lighting, the weather and my timing in visits.
Even as I’m disappointed when I cannot revisit the magic that once was, something always surprises me. The air whooshes out from my lungs on a surprised, “Wow!”
This year, cresting a hill, I glimpsed this field of saffron flowers — hundreds of them glowing beneath a giant old tree. Upon closer inspection, I saw that someone carefully planted them in the shape of a giant heart.
Maybe there’s a lesson about openness in all of this garden business. I want to hold on to those spaces of wonder and joy — to recreate things that once were — but those things have faded.
Maybe life just tastes bittersweet. We cannot hold the moments of wonder and joy, however much we try. They slip through our grasping hands.
Even as change inevitably comes, there’s still hope.
Somehow, if we’re open, life catches us by surprise. The past is gone, and something new still awaits. Maybe not where we were expecting it to come — perhaps the unexpected nature of life is part of the miracle.
We didn’t know we would stumble upon the moment. The air whooshes out from our lungs, delight rushes in, and for a brief moment the world seems to pause as we are swept up in the magic in front of our noses. A baby giggles. The sunset fills the sky with streaks of pink and orange. The waves crash against the shore. Laughter echoes round the table as old friends swap stories and good food. The bear hug reminds we’re welcomed and loved just as we are.
We cannot go back to what once was, but life still bubbles up, often unexpectedly. Will I choose to notice? Will I squander the present joy as I compare it with my past expectations?
Everything isn’t always sparkles, with hundreds of crocus dancing in the breeze. But perhaps these wonder-filled moments are like manna in the wilderness.
The book of Numbers tells of Israel’s wandering in the wilderness after their flight from Egypt. As they wandered in the desert, manna — this mysterious form of nourishment — rained down from heaven. It was enough to feed and sustain them. They couldn’t hoard it or save it — even though some tried. Manna was nourishment for the day. Perhaps boring after so many days of eating it, but still enough to carry them through to the next day.
Will I trust God for the manna to make it through the day? Will I acknowledge the wonder and grace that pops up, or will I grumble and bemoan that grace did not appear the way I wanted? I hope I spend more time in the former.