I can’t seem to get over the flowers these days.
For the last three weeks, the farthest I’ve gone from my home is about half a mile. Most days after lunch, my family and I take a quick walk around our tiny neighborhood loop. We’ve been sheltering-in-place, like much of the rest of the country, and these daily walks have given us some stability while the rest of our lives float in uncertainty.
The house behind us has a row of daffodils standing at attention like bright yellow soldiers who guard a white picket fence. There are light pink magnolias on a side street close to ours, and lavender crocuses surprise us at the base of mailboxes and tree trunks.
On our walks, I see people in the neighborhood I’ve never seen before. We silently obey the social distancing rules, taking turns shuffling our bodies into the street so others can have the sidewalk while we pass. I see weariness in their eyes — even the cheerful ones. No one looks put together. The loss of our clean-cut hair confirms this common understanding that we’re all hanging by a thin thread.
The news today predicts more job losses, more death, more waiting, more disparities, and more discouraging numbers than I can keep count of. I cry with gratitude when I see photos of nurses and doctors whose red marks and indentations, paths of stress and sorrow, line their faces. My friend with an autoimmune disease, a nurse, texts me to say how scared she is before heading into a COVID unit, and the fear I feel for her is visceral. I feel a gash in the face of hope when I read vitriolic accusations online, get a message about someone else who’s lost their job, or feel the anxiety rising in my Asian American body when I am in public and don’t know how a stranger will respond to my existence beside theirs, like Grace wrote about here.
The world weeps, and yet God still speaks through petals and green stems.
Every year between October and April, I manage to forget how beautiful spring is. But this year, it’s more than my yearly winter amnesia. The flowers this year seem audacious. The weight of COVID-19 hasn’t kept them from rising. These gentle symbols of resurrection stand straight up to salute the sun.
My kids bring their own cameras on our short walks. They take note of dandelions and find funny faces, hairstyles, and personalities in the shapes of the trees. We observe tiny gray fish in the neighborhood retention pond, witness a duck take flight from the water, and look at the greenish pond scum lining the rocks by the water’s edge. We’ve become a family of tourists in our own neighborhood. We are thirsty for wonder.
We pass by an elderly gentlemen’s house and notice that he’s in the garage. Stopping on the sidewalk from fifteen feet away, my husband calls out for him, asking him how he’s doing, if he’s holding up okay. He’s wearing a gray sweatshirt and black athletic shorts, carrying an American flag out to place in the holder on the outside of his garage. My boys run ahead after waving hello. He asks our daughter how she is by name, smiling gently at her as she grips her Daddy’s leg. I tell him to let us know if he needs anything, reminding him we’re just down the street, always home, and happy to pick up anything he might need. His smile widens and he looks at my husband, then me, and says, “I’m much older than you, but I still remember how scared we were when polio was going around. We were all so scared. Everyone was scared.”
He has the best yard in the neighborhood, and it’s not for any kind of suburban competition. We often see him outdoors, caring for every patch of grass, tree, and flower bed living around his home like they are his children.
He pauses, then says, “It feels scary right now, but we’ll get through it.”
His words pull me from the intensity of our current pandemic, and I think about how many sorrows and springs he’s already lived through. I wonder if he’s always paid such close attention to the flowers and people’s feelings, as he seems to today.
I keep going back to the account of Lazarus’ death in the book of John. The Holy Spirit brings it to mind, and I linger in the sentences where Martha tells Jesus that if only He was there, things would’ve been different. I feel her desperation below my ribs where I keep the same haunting questions undercover.
And every day, on our walk, He nudges me back towards the flowers. He shows me how they fight with tenderness and mercy and reminds me to do the same. He relieves me of my fear for a moment, as He refocuses my sight on the blooms and the neighbors He’s placed all around me. There’s so much to notice, consider, and love – even in loss and a continued quarantine. He reminds me that He weeps and waters the earth with all of our sorrow, and tomorrow, though it feels too late, He will always come.
I think He’ll come with flowers.
Through flowers, God shows us how they fight with tenderness and mercy and reminds us to do the same. -@tashajunb: Click To Tweet