I’ve learned a lot in my journey from birth to my current point. I’ve learned to pay attention to things that catch my eye, what I see in books, and what I hear in lessons and conversations. I’m a lot better at it than I was a few decades ago, although I’ll probably never notice everything I might. Still, I have learned to look for those little moments of joy that come with those sights and insights.
The other day I came across a picture I had taken a couple of years ago on a trip to northwest Oregon. My friend and I had driven down the Columbia River to where it meets the Pacific, then drove a few miles down the coast. We parked the car and began walking on dunes with large patches of beach grass. In between the patches, the path was clear and generally headed in the direction of the water. Plants were growing in the sand that looked like scrub, and here and there were tiny bits of color.
As I walked along, I saw a small plant surrounded by sand. It was all by itself, with bright green leaves and two tiny light-blue flowers. In the bright sunlight, it cast a dark shadow that contrasted with the colors of the plant and even the sand around it. Somehow that plant caught my attention for several minutes. I’m glad I had that picture to remind me of it.
I thought about what that plant represented to me. It grew in an empty space, with no competition for what water it could reach. Its aloneness was its safety net and its lifeline. Like a hermit or anchorite, it reminded me that aloneness wasn’t always a bad thing. In fact, I’ve found that it soothes me to have a frequently solitary lifestyle rather than being in crowds. Crowds make me anxious and a bit fearful. The little plant bloomed where it was, seeking no one’s opinions or admiration. It was what it was, and that was all it needed to be.
The presence of the shadow in such stark contrast reminded me that there are always shadows in life, dark places that happen but which will fade as the sun moves and finally sets. Even darkness in terms of nighttime can be a period of rest, calm, and reflection. The plant’s shadow also reminded me of Psalm 23:4, “Yea, though I walk through the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for thou art with me.” I know death is inevitable, whether it is of a friend, a plant, or even myself. The Psalmist reminds me that I shouldn’t be afraid of dying because I trust that God will take care of me.
The tiny blue flowers may not have a theology, but they seemed to be praising God for their being, the gift of water, shelter from the wind, and sunshine. They reminded me that I should be doing the same thing far more often than currently. It is also a reminder that all of creation is from God and that I should work harder at trying to help fix all the things for which humankind has messed up, broken, or destroyed. I can’t do it by myself, but I can help others. Jesus told us to love others and care for others to bring God’s kingdom to earth.
The more I look at the picture of the little plant, the more I remember, like the smell of the salt water, the gentle breeze, the bright blue water reflecting the cloudless blue sky, the crunch of sand under my feet, and the warmth of the sun. I remember the companionship of my friend and our mutual enjoyment of being together as we listened to the waves breaking gently onto the shore. I don’t know if she remembers the little plant, but I will remember it for her. It was an essential part of a beautiful day and a true gift of God’s love.
It is also a reminder that I need to be aware of tiny things around me. They, too, could bring me joy and insights. It is a part of my belief system and essential to my soul’s health.
Image: Beach flower. Property of the author, (2018).
Linda Ryan is a co-mentor for an Education for Ministry group, an avid reader, lover of Baroque and Renaissance music, and retired. She keeps the blog Jericho’s Daughter. She lives with her three cats near Phoenix, Arizona.Follow us on social media