The poppies in the garden have me hovering anxiously like a mother hen. It’s the first year all the plants survived and the buds are settled in the leaves like little Easter eggs. As if it wasn’t enough that the magnolia bloomed luscious and succulent, I get poppies too. To celebrate, I went out and bought myself a rake. No, Frank is at no risk for being ousted as the man in my life. This is a heavy-duty industrial grade set of metal tines that literally sing as they scoop through the grass. I’m just that kind of gal, I guess. A chain saw for one Mother’s Day, a Fiskar knife weeder for my birthday, a set of compost bins for “oh-what-the-heck” day, all made me swoon with delight – that is, if you can imagine yours truly swooning.
I love technology. Low-tech, Hi-tech, Me-tech. If there’s an activity then its affiliated gadget will keep me attentive for at least a year or so. The only problem is – it keeps me from getting into the heart of what I’m doing. Recently, there was a terrific article in the New York Times that is an adaptation of a commencement speech by Jonathon Franzen. He addresses the way technology separates us from truly experiencing love – something that can only be achieved by experiencing the things that hurt. I’m not crazy about the first part of his talk but the latter part really caught me.
Franzen talks about how he gave up worrying about the environment in the 1990’s because it seemed out of his reach to effect any change and it all seemed hopeless to him. Somehow he developed a passion for birdwatching – despite a subtle need to stay distanced from that passion “because anything that betrayed passion is by definition uncool.” Then something interesting happened: the anger and despair about the environment which had evoked fear in him became easier to bear as the love he felt for the birds grew and he learned more about conservation of their habitat.
Instead of continuing to drift forward through my life as a global citizen, liking and disliking and withholding my commitment for some later date, I was forced to confront a self that I had to either straight-up accept or flat-out reject.
Which is what love will do to a person. Because the fundamental fact about all of us is that we’re alive for a while but will die before long. This fact is the real root cause of all our anger and pain and despair. And you can either run from this fact or, by way of love, you can embrace it.
For Franzen, birdwatching allowed him to titrate his fears and gave him the context for activism. A deep caring slowly emerged from his unmediated contact with one aspect of the environment. So I find myself diving into the heart of the flowers in all manner of gardens, inner and outer. Just like those bees that I see buried head-first and butt-deep in a clutch of stamen and pistils, I’m determinedly unworried about being uncool. That’s the thing about passion. It lifts us up and away from the fear of not getting it perfect or right or acceptable. All that matters – actually – all that is true and real is that direct, unmediated connection from which love, brilliant and luminous, blossoms.