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August’s riot is underway: black-eyed susans with clusters of golden-blackness erupting from formal gardens, country roadsides, and cracks in pavements. Hearty, boisterous, the wildflowers appear like gossips, their petelled heads leaning toward one another, with occasional breezes disturbing the configurations. At intervals, snappish rainstorms pelt the flowers, affixed to thick hairy stems. With the sun’s reappearance, the resulting mishmash slowly diminishes, and the gossips resume their chatter, with even more verve.

With the advent of autumn, black-eyed susans lose their petals, their cone centers hardening with seeds, with promise of spring’s proliferation. Even their colors lend their gold to maples, aspens, and tulip trees; to waning sunlight outlining blackened limbs.

And another year passes. This has been a good one.

Each spring, an ancient fresco stirs my imagination and relocates me to another world in which greening is paramount.

Only 38 x 22 cm in size, the fresco depicts the Roman Goddess Flora, barefoot, her back to us as she plucks a white flower from a nearby tree to add to the basket in her other arm. Her full figure suggests pregnancy, fathered by the Spring Wind, Zephyrus. Their story is recorded in Metamorphoses (8 BCE) composed by the Roman poet Ovid.

An unknown artisan fashioned this fresco of Flora upon the one of the bedroom walls of the Villa Arianna in Stabiae, a wealthy seaside resort known for its architecture, frescoes, and statuary. Unfortunately, the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in southern Italy, 79 CE., buried the resort and neighboring towns under five meters of tephra ash where Flora remained until 1749; then, archeologists under the initiative of Charles III of Spain discovered Flora and numerous other artifacts that were later restored to the National Archeological Museum of Naples.

Yet, there’s something about Flora’s graciousness, stopped in time for our continued reflection. Perhaps that unknown artist caught her splendor-in-living for which she was revered, first by the Greeks under the name of Chloris, then, Romanized by Flora. Her devotees glimpsed in her the continuation of flowering, both plants and themselves, critical for survival.

Within such freshness and delicacy as Flora images, I glimpse Eternal Spring for which we all yearn—Thus her appeal through the centuries.

A synchronicity of burgeoning occurs for those willing to look: Spring’s coloration and the pandemic’s menace. Both entail energy—one vibrates within jewel-tones of Beauty and the other shivers within denizens of Death. One exalts spirit; the other implodes terror.

Yet, even seeds of dismemberment blemish Spring’s unfolding as subsequent seasons evolve upon the demise of previous ones and address our mortality. Winter’s grieving can be intense, but it does not end there. Spring’s greening arrives with gusto. Such is experienced in Antonio Vivaldi’s Four Seasons (1717), a group of four violin concertos that quicken imaginations, that enfold spirits within Beauty’s kiss, that enrich sensibilities, that loosen rigidity, and catapult into deeper Life.

True, the pandemic and Winter snuff out life as we know it, but death in its myriad forms has always lurked behind our blind spots, just waiting. I used to say, “Since our mother lived to be ninety-nine years old, I don’t have to hurry to finish my book. It’ll get done.” But it didn’t work out that way.

Perhaps such burgeoning of energy begs a revision of our concept of God. In the prophet Isaiah we find an astounding revelation: I form the light and create darkness, I bring prosperity and create disaster; I, the LORD, do all these things. 45:7

Certainly not that God wants our misery, given the miracle of birth and subsequent development. Joy does abound within the fabric of our humanness.

Contemplating such truth orients us to the deepest of mysteries where we experience ultimate Life and rejoice, far beyond our imagining.

 

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