Sept 19, 2010
The house project continues to provide thinking moments. Last week it was the lamps. This week it was the weeds.
A gifted friend (C.) who makes beautiful floral arrangements wrote that she would be in town briefly, and suggested that we have dinner together. She added casually that if I would gather some new and interesting weeds she would come early and make a new arrangement I could use on the piano or on the glass sofa table.
“Do I need to get all ‘new’ materials?” I asked.
“Oh, no,” C. answered, “—just some new interesting weeds and we’ll use them with some of the old arrangement you liked. The combination in that gold vase will look fine, and very different.”
The week developed into a non-stop round of activities with little time for weed-gathering. I shared my dilemma with my friend, L.
“Weeds?” asked another friend (L.) in a puzzled voice. “You mean you want weed weeds—weeds like those that grow in fields and fence rows?”
“Yep,” I said, “that’s exactly what I want.”
“Well, I’ll get some for you when I walk the dogs. What do I look for?”
“Weeds,” I said, “Look for some that are beautiful and have interesting shapes.”
A few days later, L. stopped by.
“I left some weeds in the garage,” she said, then added in a very doubtful tone, “but I don’t know about the big one I put on the floor. It’s—well, it’s odd, and it’s dark and heavy. I’ll take it and put it in the trash if you want me to. I can’t imagine how C. would ever use that.”
“No,” I said. “Just leave it all—let C. decide what will fit into what she has in mind.”
Later, visiting the weed harvest in the garage, I had my own doubts. That particular weed specimen that L. had left on the floor was big and heavy, and it looked dark and wild and somewhat ugly lying on the gray cement of the garage floor.
Shortly after C. arrived we went to inspect the weed supply in the garage.
“Oh, look!” C. said with delight. “Oh, look at this!! It’s heavy, and dark, and tall—just perfect for the center. The grasses and the golden rod and this stuff here—I don’t know its name is—it’s just beautiful, and together this is going to be wonderful. Wait and see.”
When C. was finished, the transformation of the weeds was visually astonishing. The specimen that L. had left alone on the dark cement garage floor assumed a dramatically different appearance when surrounded by the deep rust seed stalks of the dock weed, and the gold furry heads of foxtail. The slender stems of the curly willow looked oddly at home against the solid unbending strength of the dark centerpiece. Together with the wheat in the gold glass vase, all the weeds “belonged”, including the green, half-opened milkweed pods with their shining touch of silk.
“Hmm,” said L. when she saw the finished product. “Looks a lot different that it did on the garage floor.” Indeed.
N.T. Wright in Surprised by Hope argues (persuasively, I think) for an organic continuity between this earth and the New Heaven and Earth that John describes in Revelation, and a parallel continuity between who we are, who we are becoming, and the person we will some day be. It is the mystery of the already-but-not-yet of the resurrection. I thought about this later as I sat in my favorite chair and watched the evening light alter the shapes and shades of color in C’s arrangement.
That centerpiece, casting its dark straight silhouette against the gold wall, was surrounded by wild goldenrod, nameless grass, rusty untidy red seed stalks combined with the gossamer silk of half-opened milkweed pod—weeds, all of them, just weeds, creatures of the earth from which they had sprung, shaped by wind and rain and sun throughout their brief attachment to this earth. They were weeds still, although now severed from the field in which they had first known life, and placed into a gold vase, their new position and companions assigned by C.’s gifted eye,. Yet—there was something profoundly different, a transformation, if you will that found them now paradoxically both what they always had been but now reshaped into a beauty only C. could imagine when they were weeds in the fence row, then cut and left lying on the garage floor.
John was thinking about this process of change when he wrote, “Beloved, we are God’s children now; it does not yet appear what we shall be, but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. And every one who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.” (I John 3:2-3 RSV)
Be hopeful. The garage floor does not have the last word.
Grow with courage—you’re not alone.
See you next week.