I buy three bunches of eucalyptus at Trader Joe’s, plus two bunches of golden rod and some purple statice. I don’t usually keep fresh flowers in the house during Lent but we’ve got 8 foot icicles hanging off our roof, 4 feet of snow in our yard. and we’re currently digging out from our most recent snow storm. On top of that it’s been a long dark winter of kids getting sick, temps too low to go out with a baby, and my mind totally preoccupied with the health concerns of my oldest. Instead of the start of a penitential season, Lent this year feels like the continuation of the penitential season I’ve been in since January. I know that eventually I will get there, I will lean into Lent and mortify my flesh and walk the road to Calvary, but for now, darn it, I need signs of life. So I buy fresh flowers and eucalyptus.
I put the flowers on the table (at least the color is appropriate for the season) and I use the eucalyptus. to make a wreath. My therapist said that when anxiety comes I need to get out of my head. Yeah, I’m seeing a therapist because apparently PTSD is something that happens to parents of kids with health problems. She told me that when anxiety comes I should try to focus on real things, things I can touch and see and smell. So I buy some eucalyptus and make a wreath.
I cut the branches and fasten them to a wire hoop. The fresh smell fills my kitchen. The sap oozes out of the broken stems and covers my hands with a thin, sticky coating. I hold up my wreath to check my progress and through the hoop I catch a glimpse of my baby playing in his exersaucer. He’s chewing on his bottom lip and patting a toy over and over. When he sees me looking at him he smiles and lets out a little chuckle.
It feels good to be to be working with my hands, to be doing something creative when we’ve been in survival mode for what feels like forever (though really it’s only been weeks). And yet I feel a little guilty about my floral splurge, adorning the house when we’re supposed to be in a season of austerity. But then I think of the woman who broke the alabaster jar and poured it’s costly contents over Jesus’ head. It seemed an extravagant waste to some, but Jesus knew it was a beautiful preparation for his pending death and burial. A beautiful gift in the face a grief. Purple flowers on my table. A wreath during lent. A way to say, “I love you Jesus, and I want to suffer along side you, but just now I need this small reminder of light as we walk through the darkness.”
When I’m satisfied with my wreath I hang it up on the back wall of the kitchen. I hear my three year old waking up from her nap, signaling the end of my creative time. I brush the leftover bits of eucalyptus into the trash can and go about the rest of my day taking care of kids, preparing meals, dealing with messes. But I can’t stop looking at my wreath. Every time I see it it’s like a retreat for my eyes that are so starved for fresh greenery. It’s such a small thing, but it fills me with so much joy, and so much hope for the spring that I know is coming.