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Annual or Perennial?

November 17, 2019


I walk along a path. Last week the sides of growing things crowded me. The summer’s growth would occasional grab a piece of clothing or scratch a hand.

This week, the turgid plants disappeared. What had been vital was simply gone.

I had been on this path enough to know this collapse was temporary. I had actually planted the seeds of some of these billowing flowers that had brushed against me. I knew that when I tilled the soil, added fertilizer, planted and watered, and “Voila!” that this was a summer exercise.

After a night of frost, these beauties just disappeared. Dead. All the vessels of the plant that drew water up into the plant and nourished it, and made it stiff and waving in the breeze, were gone, killed because the plant’s miracle machine of sucking water out of the ground, building cells and processing daylight had been ended by a 28F night, too cold to live on. Every living thing dies.

I did not think this when our children were born, either, but it is true.

I could manipulate the variables and engender flowers. We could set the stage for the miracle of human creation, our children, but we did nothing more than set the table.

Soon, most of us will be sitting at a large table. We will gorge on platters of food, as the flowers did for a summer. We will feast on life. But the dinner will be eaten. The food will be gone. This happens every year. It is not one and done like those flowers.

Some things are perennial. In my walk I go by trees. They are forever in that they were before me, and will be after me. But no, in my 35 years on this site with my wife hurricanes have felled trees, and some have simply been crowded out, and died. Several had terminal blights. In truth these trees are annuals too, but are simply growing for a longer year. Like us. Like our children.

Then what is the point? To live to die?

Because in this season of dying it is devastatingly true that “God made us, not we ourselves.” The flowers, too. All the things we manipulate to make Thanksgiving dinner. Everything. Every Thing.

When some politicians inveigh on capitalism that “You didn’t make that!” I think of our children, those flowers, the food on our plate. We made have prepared the,m, but we did not make them.

If life were perennial, we could claim control, at least in the moment. But we are all annuals, it just depends on how long our year in the sun is. It is never long enough, until it is finished.

I wish I understood any of it, but I do not. But the joy of seeing the flower, the child, even the giblet gravy is not understood either.

God made all those things, and me, and you. Hard news in a place of control, but the hard love is undeniable.

Time to set the table again.

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