Miles of concrete, lined with parking lots. Not a tree in sight for miles. Burned out buildings housing pigeons, feral cats and a host of other mysterious wild beings (I saw possums, often). This was the city of Newark where I lived, for many years.
Unlike New York, there were no shady trees lining sidewalks. I realized this the first time it hit 104 degrees There was no shade to be found. I was living in a concrete sahara.
Gradually, over the years, I began to see dandelions pushing up through the cracks in the sidewalk. They were so exciting, I had to celebrate them. I gathered their seeds and planted more on the roof. The next year, the bloom of the moment was Queen Anne’s Lace, the following year, Bachelor Buttons. The year I left, Red Morning Glories were climbing up chain linked fences. On the day I drove away from Newark for the last time, all these so-called “weeds”, tough little flowers that they were, had burst into a symphony of colors lining the parking lots.
As I was loading up the car, a guy with a gasoline powered weed whacker was heading down the tiny lane between the parking lots, whacking the flowers up in the name of urban neatness. I was glad that I wasn’t going to see the end of that story. How on earth, could you weed whack a miracle?
If you don’t see it as a miracle, I guess.
I was reading today, the interview of a gentleman, now immersed in the business of Silicon Valley, who traveled to India in the 70’s. He stated that the 70’s was the age of miracles, and that they no longer happened.
Really? Or did we just get so focused on something else that we missed them?
I now live in a converted garage in Marin County, California. In the surrounding yard there are flower bushes, not one, or two, but dozens. Oh the pleasure, to be surrounded by flowers. To walk out of my humble abode and see the spiky trees, dotting the horizon. To see the beautiful Mt. Tam, a Kailash I can get close to, rising above the landscape.
I make it a point every morning to smell the roses. Literally. I can’t afford a Maserati, but I can smell the roses. Miraculously, everything keeps blooming here throughout the year, even though it never rains. To my Northeast born and bred eyes, this is a miracle.
This morning, my landlady’s daughter was expressing her various woes. Well, don’t we all have them? And yes, many of them are considerable. I expressed that I was sorry she was challenged, but then offered some appreciation for the flowers. I’m so glad that there is a rose bush outside my door, and that I can smell the roses everyday when I walk by.
“Roses?”, she responded, looking a bit puzzled. “Are there roses? Which bush?”
It was the one right by her car.
“I didn’t see them.”
“I see,” I said. Meaning, “I understand”. I know what that is like, those moments when the hard things, the ugly things, the challenging things appear to be so oppressive that it is difficult to see beyond them. I know what that is like.
I remember learning from one of my teachers to count ten blessings before I put my foot on the floor each morning. ESPECIALLY when I didn’t feel grateful. This was partly how I learned to cultivate the awareness of the many miracles that surround us each day. Dandelions coming up through the sidewalk made the list often on days when I felt I had little to be grateful for. Oh, how they grew, the more they were on the list, the more I observed them. The more I observed them, the more it seemed they grew. I kind of figure that’s how I landed here, with the roses and everything.
“Well, I just wanted to thank you. I enjoy smelling them.” I said. She looked at me a little mystified, like I was a little strange, but to me, I was enjoying a miracle