I remember gasping out loud while reading a dystopian novel when I realized that their “world” didn’t have color. (Not naming the novel so as to not ruin it for others.) It is hard to imagine a world without color.
Several years ago I noticed that my front garden featured mostly blue/purple/pink hues, so I set out adding some yellow and orange. Now along with flax, salvia, and penstemons (blues/purples/pinks), I have yarrow (yellow), blanket flower (yellow/orange), daylilies (yellow), and coral and orange penstemons. It’s a crazy cottage-garden jumble since I let perennials re-seed without too much discipline.
There isn’t anything particularly wrong about a garden focused on one palette, but I do love the variety of pops of different hues.
This spring, I noticed that the planting area around my cherry tree next to the driveway off our alley featured mostly white. The cherry tree blooms are white. And the hyacinths are white because that’s the color of the extra bag my neighbor gave me. However, the white tulips were not necessarily intentional. But now I wonder – perhaps keeping this little white garden provides an interesting color study of its own? I had penciled in some light pink tulips to add to that area this fall, but now I’m not sure – maybe an all white section of the garden is a respite from the riot of color I seem to feature in other areas.
I started writing this blog a few days ago, noticing the beautiful variety of colors in my garden. But I wasn’t quite ready to finish the blog. I was pondering whether or not there was any deeper meaning in my hunger for color. This time of year I am feasting on the variety and abundance of blossoms – roses, peonies, flax, penstemon, salvia, fleabane, blanket flower, daylilies, yarrow, honeysuckle, feverfew, ice plant – the list goes on! I can’t get enough of the rich palette.
Yet I am also aware that I can’t store up the color and blossoms for another season. And with the early heat we have experienced in Colorado, even the color of this season seems fleeting as the roses quickly bloom and wilt. Oh, I can preserve some flowers; I will definitely dry some lavender when it starts blooming. But there are seasons of color and abundance in the garden, and there are seasons of dormancy and brown. This time of year I wander through my garden every day to see what new treasure has unfolded. But in November, December, and January, I struggle to enjoy the shades of brown and beige, and delight in a dried red berry on a shrub. Why even think of that season right now?
Well, depression has certainly been in the news lately. My family, like many, has been impacted by suicides in our family story. And I experience some seasonal depression.
I think part of my hunger for color and beauty is an attempt to store up some reserves in my soul for the dormant season. But that’s not really how it works, I have to find the beauty and meaning in each day, because left on my own, my stores are so quickly depleted.
The progression of blooms in my garden can provide some enjoyment for each day of the summer and into the fall. But if my hope is in temporal beauty, it will fade and die. There has to be some deeper source of daily hope, beyond what I see in the natural world.
Today at church, the message focused on the amazing truth that God’s Spirit lives within us, as followers of Jesus. A mystical, hard-to-explain promise – that we are never truly alone, even if our feelings tell us otherwise.
As I consider my present joy, and wonder about how fleeting it may seem, I contrast that with the gray season of lament. Recently I read this from a Michael Guinan, (OFM), a Franciscan:
Lament is not a failure of faith, but an act of faith. We cry out directly to God because deep down we know that our relationship with God counts; it counts to us and it counts to God.
Embracing color and beauty is perhaps a cry for something more in my soul.
In the garden, I experience a little taste of the knowledge that I was created to desire what is good and lovely, even as my human experience is at times broken and gray. So I greedily soak up each moment of the glory of June. And I know that in this season I can be grateful to the Creator for sending the Spirit to live within me. Then, when the season of lament and lack of color comes, I can cry out to God, as an act of faith, knowing he is near, even when I am unable to see the colors.