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NASTURTIUMS
June 12, 2003
 
Yesterday, the first nasturtium. Oh, good --I had been concerned that the soil in the wine keg in which I planted the nasturtium seeds was too good. Nasturtiums thrive only in poor soil -- if it's too rich and nice, they grow abundant leaves and few flowers, rather like students who accumulate master's degrees but never get around to actually working. But these guys are full of buds, and the first blossom is bright red and very pretty.

An extra gourmet touch: you can eat them. So they are better than graduate students.

And the roses seem to be holding their own in an extraordinarily wet spring. Each day, I remove yellow leaves, and other leaves with black spot -- two afflictions that thrive on dampness. But the plants continue to send out new canes, and I believe they will stay ahead of their various fungi and viruses. And they, too are blooming, or thinking about it.

I see now, though, that the columbines that I started from seed early in the spring probably will not bloom this year: they will settle into their garden home and gather strength. Then they will sleep all winter and, God willing, bloom in the spring along with all the other columbines. I could be wrong. They could eat and drink all summer and put on a little show right at the very end; I've heard of their doing that. We can only wait and see.

And the hollyhocks, planted at the end of last summer: they could grow rapidly and bloom this year. Or they could just grow and wait. We shall see.

You have to be patient with people. They don't bloom overnight.
Sometimes they don't even bloom in a season, or in several. But if they can just stay alive, they will. And if you can help them do it, give them what they need to grow, you'll see flowers eventually.

And some plants' flowers are not the main attractor, not to us: they function as the means of the plant's reproduction of itself, but they don't just bowl us over, like the rose or the lily. They are modest. Coleus, striped zebra grass, dusty miller -- bloom is not their greatest beauty. It's the foliage that is the most beautiful thing about them. For some of us, it's not the flower at the end that keeps us glad to be here. It's the journey through life itself.

And the perpetual students? Maybe they're all right, too. Maybe what they love to do is learn, and maybe that's all right. Maybe they can find a way to do just that, their whole lives long -- wait tables at night and study Scythian art all day. Who are we to say they have to bloom as other people bloom? Or that bloom is even the point for everyone?

Jewish tradition values the scholar in everybody -- expects everyone to study the Torah, to make learning and growing a part of life. The shoemaker, the shopkeeper, the farmer: each of them hopes to reach a point in life where it becomes possible to study all the time, spend time learning and discussing and growing in wisdom. The Sabbath is spent in this activity: in hearing the word of God and reading it, reading about it, thinking it about it. Work all week is tough and can be dispiriting, but on the Sabbath comes the reward, and it turns out not to be a flower: it's foliage, learning, the growing part of the plant, the part that assimilates and nourishes. Wisdom and love come together on the Sabbath: a family time and a time of private refreshment. It need never be anything more than the lovely leaves of life itself, growing over and over, each one the same and each one different, throughout a life.
Copyright © 2018 Barbara Crafton
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