Sometimes I think it would be good to lock myself away in a windowless cell for a few decades like the Buddhist nun I recently read about. I wouldn't have to hear of the appalling things human beings are capable of doing to each other, and regularly do. I wouldn't have to see pictures in the newspaper of handsome young men, fathers of children, and mothers too, who can gun down innocent people who have done them no harm and feel that they are the heroes. I wouldn't have to twist my brain into knots trying to understand how a person could evolve from an innocent baby to a gun- or explosives-toting killer. I saw a poster once of a down-at-heel homeless man wandering the streets of Paris. The caption said "We All Come From Lovers." The puzzlement is in how the love gets lost and the baby grows up to be a psychopath.
I got peonies for my birthday last month. I know that must seem like a non sequitur but I hope to show you that it is not. At first this post was going to be just about the peonies.....and then things happened and......it wasn't.
They looked like dirty little golf balls on stems when they arrived. But, the card assured me, follow the instructions and they will blossom into beauties. I followed the instructions and was rewarded with this -
They were beautiful.
Each morning I changed the water, clipping the bottoms of the stems to keep them fresh. They lasted for several days but each day was like a different decade in a human life ---
--- the newborn stage when they were first delivered, looking like old golf balls;
--- the unfolding into the unblemished beauty of childhood;
--- the full flowering of youth;
--- on into middle age, still beautiful but drying out a little;
And then the inevitable dropping off of petals.
Finally, all that remained was a bowl of crispy remnants that are nevertheless still beautiful and retain much of the beauty of their first day of flowering.
And how does this relate to my opening paragraph? It made me reflect on life. I'm older now than my own parents lived to be. It is sometimes tempting to groan at the prospect of another birthday, to grimace at the bathroom mirror when faced with the incontestible proof of time's passage, to bemoan the dryness, the sagginess, the bagginess, the long-in-the-toothedness, the wrinkles.
The peonies reminded me of what I knew all along --- that each phase of life has its own beauty. No moaning or ollagoaning* this year. I'm too busy embracing each minute, with all its creaking joints, and multiple blessings. I'm too busy being grateful for my life and its few remaining petals. I'm sure the victims of recent events on the world stage would gladly accept a few sags and bags, creaks and aches, if they could only have lived to evolve into them from their snatched-away youth.
As our teacher says at the end of yoga class --
(And treasure all your petals no matter what stage they're at)