Reflections on a dead hydrangea

I continued my reading of Thomas Merton's The Way of Chuang Tzu this morning, but nothing struck me in particular.

When I finished meditating, I went to my computer to look for a photo to post here, but nothing struck me in particular.

I realized I was feeling restless, so I wandered through photos from various trips, wondering if I was hungering for a particular view.  But nothing rang that inner bell; nothing struck me in particular.

So I thought I'd head outside with my camera to see what might emerge.  And I realized that everywhere I looked things were dying -- but beautifully: the roses were turning to rose hips, the fennel was going to seed, the pine cones were falling, and this hydrangea, a mother's day gift, was also giving up the ghost.  And though I feel a bit guilty because I couldn't keep it alive, I love the laciness of the florets. Clearly there is beauty in age as well as in youth, it's just beauty of a different sort.

I think I was actually in junior high when I first read Dickens' Great Expectations; it was a favorite of my father's.  I loved the book, read it again in high school, and wrote a paper on it in college, comparing it to another book which had a similar plot; upon closer examination, Dickens' writing proved to be far superior.

I mention the book now because these dying flowers made me think of Miss Haversham, still in her wedding dress at her advanced age, the lace yellowed and torn with wear.  My guess -- though I don't actually remember -- is that there was a bouquet somewhere as well, flowers dried and disintegrating with age.  And so I find myself thinking of some of the themes of the book: the destructiveness of obsessing over past injustices, the foolishness of assumptions, how misleading appearances can be, the way both good and bad deeds can reverberate over time... And then, again, how the process of disintegration has a beauty all its own.

And now I see Chuang Tzu has something to say after all:

"There is a time for putting together
and another time for taking apart.
He who understands 
This course of events
Takes each new state 
In its proper time
With neither sorrow nor joy."


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