Rev. Amy’s Writing
Weaving the Web – Rev. Amy Zucker-Morgenstern
- Flower meditation 6 June 27, 2020
“How can black people write about flowers at a time like this?” So whispered a woman (white) at a poetry reading, where a poet (black) was reading poems about flowers. The query inspired this poem by Hanif Abdurraqib, who also writes, on the same webpage, about the experience of overhearing it.
Artists must follow their calling, and it is particularly troubling for a white person to question how a black artist uses their creativity and relates to the world. I’ll let Abdurraqib’s response speak to that question, since he’s black and I’m not, and he’s a poet, while I’m just a reader and appreciator of poetry.
However, all of us who “rejoice in beauty,” as we say in our benediction, and also grieve for the world and rage at its injustices, may be troubled by the tension within. Can we raise a fist with one hand, caress a flower with the other, or will the attempt leave us doing very little of either? Should we put the contemplation of beauty on hold until this crisis is past? (Is the crisis ever past?) Is the contemplation and celebration of flowers a breather, our way of restoring ourselves before we go back into the ring, or is it more than that?
The Rev. Stefanie Etzbach-Dale spoke to this dilemma beautifully in her sermon on June 14. (You can see the whole service here, or listen to just the sermon here.) Like Stefanie, I think that all of it, the beauty and the pain, are part of the “sacred ground of now.” Life is too short either to permit injustices to go by unchallenged, or to permit flowers to go unnoticed for too long.
Thank you for calling our attention to these, Richard Heydt, in the midst of the struggle.
- Flower meditation 5 June 26, 2020
Today’s meditation makes another reference to poetry, sent by Brian Weller:
Black earth turned into
We don’t have a lot of crocus around here, but the magic is the same. Plants turn earth into flowers. This delicate blossom that Geoff Ivison sent was made out of sunshine, water, air, and a couple teaspoons of minerals from the dirt of his yard. I suppose if we stayed aware of how amazing that is, we would walk around goggle-eyed and pointing at everything like a lot of tourists just off the bus, calling out to each other: Hey, look at this flower! There was only earth and seeds in this planter a couple of months ago! Look at my arm! There was a cut here last week and now there’s a scar! Look at that toddler! Three years ago she didn’t even exist, and now there’s a whole human being running and babbling! Wow! Wow! Wow!
That doesn’t sound so bad, now that I think about it.
P.S. I think that after this, there is only one photo remaining (waves at Richard Heydt).
I don’t want to repeat my error of leaving out anyone’s flowers, so if you are pretty sure that I didn’t include yours either in Sunday’s service or one of these meditations, please let me know right away. (If you sent more than one, as many of you did, they might not all have been included.)
If you’re not sure, or if you just want to revisit Sunday’s Flower Communion, it begins at just about 29:00 in the video of the service.
- Flower meditation 4 June 25, 2020
My friend’s grandparents, all four of them, came to Boston from County Cork, Ireland. They started their families there, raised their children and saw grandchildren born, and grew old in this country. They were homesick at times, of course, and one grandfather talked about how seeing his toddler grandson play reminded him of his own childhood in the hills of Cork. They never again saw the land of their birth.
Did they miss the trees and flowers that grew there? Did the rocks have a different character and the ocean a different smell? Did they see anything growing in the gardens of Boston that looked like these flowers from the grounds of Blarney Castle, and feel a bit more rooted in their adopted home? I hope so. The particular colors and scents of our childhood are so important, and while beautiful things bloom everywhere, when we’re older we may always feel a longing for the ones we saw when we were very young.
I hope that if you’re an adult, the next time you go outside, you see a flower from your childhood; and if you’re a child, that the flowers you see now follow you wherever adulthood might take you.
Flowers from Mike McLaughlin.
- Flower meditation 3 June 24, 2020
Confession: I am not a fan of hydrangeas. I first encountered them by my grandmother’s front door, where there were a couple of pretty scraggly specimens, an inauspicious start. The big snowballs of flowers seem more comical than lovely. The foliage doesn’t add much . . . Oh, I don’t really know my reasons, and it’s mean-spiritied to list them, or to try to come up with them. Taste is not rational, and I just didn’t like them much.
They do have that fascinating characteristic of acting as litmus paper for the soil, or at least some varieties do. The same plant can produce blue flowers if the soil is acidic or pink if it’s alkaline, and a very high pH might make them positively red. That’s cool, but it hasn’t been enough to make me appreciate the way they look.
What did change my attitude was putting together the Flower Communion video. Choosing which flowers went on which background color made me notice subtle shadings within the flowers, and looking at the flowers so many times helped illuminate aspects of them that I had breezed by in the past. Hydrangeas, it turns out, are subtle. How could I have thought they were just oversized Dr. Seuss puffballs, when each cluster is made of so many delicate little flowers, overlapping and creating their own homegrown bouquet? How could I have thought the colors bland when they are actually infinite shades arranged together? Now that I looked closely, not even each petal was monochrome, but shaded from dark at the vein-rich centers to lighter at the edges, or sometimes even had different hues, pink and blue and white in one floret (now what kind of soil explained that?) .
You probably like hydrangeas just fine. But if you are like me, there are other moments of beauty you’ve missed because of some prejudice or habit of seeing. Some time contemplating this flower more closely may refocus your vision, too.
The photo is by Barbara Saxton, of her hydrangea, a plant I will never dismiss again.
- Flower meditation 2 June 23, 2020
The poem “The Orchid Flower,” by Sam Hamill, is longer than these three lines, but on their own they are a haiku, and, in my view, a poem unto themselves.
Just as I wonder
whether it's going to die,
the orchid blossoms
You can read the entire poem here.
The beautiful photo is by Jo English, of an orchid plant that has lived with her for many years.