The Fire and the Rose

We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
Through the unknown, unremembered gate
When the last of earth left to discover
Is that which was the beginning;
At the source of the longest river
The voice of the hidden waterfall
And the children in the apple-tree
Not known, because not looked for
But heard, half-heard, in the stillness
Between two waves of the sea.
Quick now, here, now, always—
A condition of complete simplicity
(Costing not less than everything)
And all shall be well and
All manner of thing shall be well
When the tongues of flame are in-folded
Into the crowned knot of fire
And the fire and the rose are one.
T.S. Eliot, Little Gidding 

When Sherod and I lived in Memphis, our house had a wonderful garden.  Sherod grew vegetables and had a flowerbed filled with foxglove and echinacea and daisies and all manner of other blooming perennials.  I grew antique roses.  There were times when I could go out to our garden and pick a couple dozen beautiful roses that would fill our home with the most wonderful fragrance for days.  We left Memphis in 1996 and I still miss my roses.  There’s a place in Texas called “the Antique Rose Emporium” with the most amazing collection of heirloom roses imaginable.  I carefully selected my roses from their catalogue back in my Memphis days and just a couple of months ago, in a bout of nostalgia, I pulled up the Emporium’s online catalogue and ached all over again for my beautiful garden.  The weather here is so humid and hot that all I have ever seen around are somewhat paltry, Home-depot kinds of rosebushes, a caricature really, of what grew with reckless abandon in my backyard.

Last night, I was out walking as sunset approached. The sun was low enough that light was kind to everything it touched.  The temperature still drops at the end of the day and the breezes are so gentle they’re a butterfly kiss on my face. I walked by a house not far from ours and stopped in my tracks.  Literally, my heart began racing.  Roses. Roses coming so close to the ones I knew and loved in Memphis.  Bushes growing tall and strong and full of blossoms.  I don’t know how else to describe this but as a mystical moment of connection: connection with my past but also with my life right here, right now, connection with the world, somehow revealed in that garden, connection with a God of such absurd and unabashed abundance.  Such grace waiting patiently to be discovered, simply waiting to be seen…

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