Flares

“Look!  A flare.”

I know better than to look up in the sky when the Lovely Lady says the word.  My eyes automatically drop to the ground and I see it.  What she is pointing to are actually the tips of the leaves of our old friends, the crocuses.  Last week it was a skin-biting six degrees one morning, yet here are the crocuses, making promises.

Okay.  I know you want to know why one would look to the ground to see a flare, so I had better get that out of the way or you won’t hear a single word I say.  It is a story I have heard numerous times since I became part of her family, thirty-five years ago.  The Lovely Lady’s mother told and retold the bit of lore and it has long ago intertwined itself into our everyday life.

It seems that the young family was visiting grandparents in Florida many years ago.  On a lazy summer day, the adults sat and enjoyed their iced tea on the screened-in porch when the voice of one of the Lovely Little Girl’s brothers wafted on the breeze from the garden beside the house.

“No Jessie.  Don’t say flares.  Say flow-ers!”

The little neighbor girl, her southern accent firmly in place, could say no such word, but the young boy certainly gave promise of becoming a first class grammar cop.  He has made good on the promise.  I like him.

Now, where were we?  Oh yes!  The crocuses are making promises.  The weeks ahead will show us if they also can make good on that promise.

I’m betting on the crocuses.

Reading this, one could be forgiven for thinking that I am once again railing against the harshness of winter, although, in a way, I guess I could be.  It has been a brutal winter, one of the worst I can remember, and I am tired to death of it.  The ice, the frigid temperatures, and the accompanying hardships, along with the gloomy skies that follow have sapped me of any resolve to stay positive and upbeat.

More than once in the last month, I have thought about sending up a flare–no, a real flare, a signal of distress–to make sure that the Creator knows we’re still down here, waiting for relief.  I’ve certainly done enough complaining in my flare/prayers that have gone up His way.  Isn’t it odd–how the distance between us and Him seems at times to be as hard as the icy ground was last week?

But when all is said and done, I’m not talking about the weather at all, am I?

May I talk about the crocuses for a minute more?

I didn’t plant them.  Someone else did that.  Down there, under the ground, there are some bulbs.  I’ve never seen the bulbs, but I know they are there.

Two weeks ago, when there was four inches of snow on the ground above them, they were there.  As the snow melted and refroze into a hard, glistening sheet of ice that made walking hazardous, the bulbs weren’t wondering what they should be doing.  They weren’t concerned about whether the shoots they were preparing to push skyward would be able to punch through the ice.

Those bulbs, which I have never set eyes on, just did what they do.  They gathered nutrients from the soil, some of those actually put there by that snow up above; they turned those nutrients into the immature leaves which were developing, and they began to push them up through the ground above them.  When the shoots got almost to the level of the soil, they stopped.  It was too cold for those leaves to be above ground, so they waited.  Then this week, the ground warmed up above freezing again, and they immediately started pushing upward once more.

The bulbs, which I really cannot give witness to actually being there, have been doing this for all the years we have lived here.  I have never tended them, never lifted a finger to aid them.

They have always kept their promise.  Every year.

No.  I’m not talking about the weather.

Come to think of it, I’m not really even talking about flower bulbs.

Life is not as easy as it once seemed to be.  Complications have set in.  Plans which have been set in motion haven’t come to fruition.  People I expected to remain alongside me have gone elsewhere, some physically and some spiritually.  There are more than a few who have gone from my world permanently.  I will never see them again, never hear their voices again.  Paths I have chosen have been blockaded, dead ends which disappoint in their ending.  Frequently these days, I am in a dark place.

But, I realize that I didn’t plant the seed.  I’m also coming to realize that I have no control over the end result.  That said, the promise of spring that follows winter has been made.

Someone planted the bulbs.

There will be crocuses.  Right on time.

The leaves are pushing through the ground right about now.  I can wait.

Seasons change.  There are still promises to be kept.

Look!  A flare.

“If winter comes, can spring be far behind?”
(From Ode to the West Wind by Percy Bysshe Shelley ~ English poet ~ 1792-1822)

“He who makes the promise will find ways and means of keeping it.  It is mine to obey His commands; it is not mine to direct His counsels.”
(C H Spurgeon ~ British pastor/theologian ~ 1834-1892)

© Paul Phillips. He’s Taken Leave. 2014. All Rights Reserved.

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