Somewhere close to 60 years ago my grandmother planted these “champagne” irises. They’ve survived droughts, freezes, and then 18 years of neglect after she died. More recently they survived being dug up and moved to my house.
I’ve been watching them, anticipating the day they would burst forth.
Today was a perfect spring day. I brought Augustine’s Confessions outside to read after it got too sunny to keep weeding. A small hill in my backyard proved magnetic after awhile, and I was drawn out of my shaded spot to lie there on my stomach and read.
Back in college, half my life ago, I used to lie outside on a hill reading in a sunny area between dorms, my friends to either side of me, listening to the music of Pearl Jam’s Ten blaring from a stereo propped in the open window of the boys’ dorm to our right combined with the music of romping 19-year-olds hitting volleyballs, throwing frisbees, and reveling in the freedom of new adulthood.
Today I listened to the music of neighborhood lawnmowers, the TV in the garage where my husband worked, and the shouts of my children romping with their neighbors in the yard next door, reveling in the freedom of a sunny Saturday with no homework.
“Time does not stand still, nor are the rolling seasons useless to us, for they work wonders in our minds,” Augustine said.
I took in the beauty around me, noting the prickle of last year’s grass thatch against my wrists, the contrast of the gentle warmth of the April sun soaking through my clothes and a light, cool breeze on my face, the visual punch of reborn plants bursting with foliage in the slanting light, and the smell of mulch and new growth.
“Yet were these beautiful things not from you [God], none of them would be at all. They arise and sink; in their rising they begin to exist and grow toward their perfection, but once perfect they grow old and perish; or, if not all reach old age, yet certainly all perish. So then, even as they arise and stretch out toward existence, the more quickly they grow and strive to be, the more swiftly they are hastening toward extinction. This is the law of their nature. You have endowed them so richly because they belong to a society of things that do not all exist at once, but in their passing away and succession together form a whole, of which the several creatures are parts. So it is with our speaking as it proceeds by audible signs: it will not be a whole utterance unless one word dies away after making its syllables heard, and gives place to another.”
And I saw what he was saying. We are part of a greater whole. We can’t see it because we are just parts, but for the whole to exist we must grow and eventually die, as did those before us and those yet to come. It is like we are the individual words of a spoken sentence, one that will not have meaning until all the words are spoken. It is bittersweet to see this beauty and to know its temporariness and yet it must be. We grow toward perfection in our mortal selves, and if we’re lucky we grow old before we perish. But always we are moving on, moving toward the true perfection of the whole.
Before I went inside I took a picture of Byeya’s irises. Today another part reached perfection.