Saturday, November 19, 2011

Now and then and incarnation

At some point this fall, swamp milkweed pods that had dried to precise degrees burst, releasing tiny seeds suspended from silk sails to fly away on the wind. Now in November, this is what's left, most evident near wetlands, relics of summer so delicately poised that they seem ready to take flight themselves.

Looking back to late August, when milkweed was in full bloom, there was little hint in lavish displays of pink and green --- especially popular among Monarch butterflies --- that such spare and delicate and sculptural shapes would emerge.

September's greatest show was provided by sunflowers in lavish bloom along roadsides and trails. This is what's left now --- and the fact I struggle differentiating Maximilian (Helianthus maximilianii) from Sawtooth (Helianthus grosseserratus) hardly seems important.

Who would guess the seeds of all this showy gold were contained in these shapely, but uncompromisingly stark, containers. 

Is it any wonder that we struggle to name Eupatorium serotinum when the "common" nicknames are lateflowering thoroughwort (or boneset)? These pillows of asterish white are among the most common roadside flowers as fall winds down.

Few reminders now that just a few weeks ago these wildflowers were part of a great cafeteria, feeding bees and Monarchs and many other fellow critters, then in flight.

The week now approaching brings not only Thanksgiving and in our hemisphere the approach of winter, but also the end of one cycle in the traditional Christian year, the passage from "ordinary time" after Pentecost into Advent, from the latin Adventus, or arrival, or coming.

In our allegorical construct, this is a time of expectant waiting as a distant and aloof Creator, heretofore amusing himself by observing and occasionally smiting the mixed results of cosmic handiwork, prepares to put on creation and jump feet-first into it in the form of an infant.

Humans who follow the Christian tradition, supremely self-centered as we are, have developed the peculiar notion that the incarnation is all about us. Other traditions know better and I beg to differ as well, sensing incarnation, death and resurrection in the cycle of a wetlands milkweed, too.

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