Lo, how a rose e’er blooming, from tender stem hath sprung

This time of year, there isn’t a lot of tenderness in this landscape—vegetation tends to either toughen or collapse in the hard, cold air. We know from experience the greens and pinks will return, but if you look around and try to imagine this happening, it takes a mighty effort to suspend your disbelief. Cyclical or not, the coming of spring is pretty incredible if you stop to think about it.

Gardening is full of little miracles. I had been in my house two summers when a funny-looking sprout appeared in the narrow bed along the front of my house. Something about it looked distinctly non-weedy, so I decided to let it go and see what happened. The next time I looked, it was not only unlovely but large and forbidding. If I were not so lazy, that would have been the end of that experiment, but I just wasn’t prepared to put on my gloves and dig out the thorny thing that afternoon. Or the next or the next or the next. Which is a good thing, because when the next year rolled around, the messy mystery plant revealed itself as a rose. 

Furrows be glad, though earth is bare,

one more seed is planted there.

Give up your strength the seed to nourish

that in time the flower may flourish.

After spending the last year or so getting up close and personal with my dirt, I’ve been hyper-aware of botanical content of so many Christmas and Advent carols. Of all the trees that are in the wood, the holly bears the crown. Winds through the olive trees softly did blow.  Then down came the tallest branch—it touched Mary’s hand. And the first tree in the green wood, it was the holly. The tree of life my soul hath seen, laden with fruit and always green.

For department stores and five-year-olds, Christmas 2009 is already a memory, but according to the liturgical calendar there are a few days left to enjoy those once-a-year tunes. Here’s one of my favorites.

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