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From within summer’s treasures bloom Asiatic lilies: crimsons, salmons, whites, yellows, and golds; their profusion enhances ash pits, garage doors, backyards, as well as formal gardens. Atop stalks, sometimes over five feet tall, stamens and pistils strut their stuff within six-petelled blossoms—their blatant sexuality preening under the sun. Unlike other flowering shrubs and plants, their showing lasts for weeks.

I’m always stunned by the perfection of Asiatic lilies: the symmetry of their waxy petals, their unified whole, their coloring, and especially their pulsating energy. Never can I walk past a cluster of them without touching and smelling. Joy wells from my depths.

Such vibrant beauty recalls the aesthetics of John Ruskin, a British art critic and watercolorist. He experienced God’s love in the wonders of nature as he traveled around Europe and later developed his findings in five volumes of Modern Painters (1885), seventeen years in their composition. Such findings also fueled his passion for environmental reform caused by smog from factories during the Industrial Revolution. Hazed over was God’s unitive presence in nature—its connection, minimized, snuffed out.

Unfortunately, similar smog still persists. At best, we can keep it at bay through listening, in stillness, to clusters of Asiatic lilies. Be open to their gifts and be renewed.

 

 

 

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Afternoon breezes massage the creamy tepals of the blossom, atop the southern magnolia tree in my backyard; its wonder incites my awe, humbles me before Creator God. This first flowering should not have happened, given last year’s winter bite. Yet, there it is, and another thumb-sized bud emerges on a lower limb. How I had doubted the effectiveness of those biweekly waterings with the soaker hose.

A closer look reveals two rows of four-inch tepals preening within the sun’s rays; its gold-colored carpels in the center resemble the turret of a mosque; its glossy leathery leaves contrast with newer ones, in a lighter shade of green; its lemony fragrance piques my spirit. The tree, itself, appears fuller, more pear-shaped than when it was planted.

Days pass. I’m still moved by the blossom’s presence in my psyche, as if it wants to share something with me. I wait.

Then while washing dishes, it comes: the pristine blossom resembles a virgin soul. Its cupped shape suggests the sacred feminine; its whiteness, purity, simplicity; its velvety petals, unruffled smoothness; its wind and insect resistance, fierce integrity that bodes no intrusion.

It just is, a gift bestowed upon those who seek glimpses into the deeper realm that surrounds us, and with it, seamless joy. I give thanks …

 

Every day we open and close doors to our homes, our cars, places of work, institutions, family, and friends. Do we notice the variety of the doors: hinged, folding, sliding, rotating up and over, some with locks and some without? Does crossing their threshold alter our energy?

Such questions must have influenced the earliest reproductions of both the single and double doors depicted upon walls of Egyptian tombs in the Nile Valley. Here, the door symbolizes an area, closed off from the profane, similar to later ornamental doors found on mosques, monasteries, cathedrals, and temples, orienting the worshiper toward its mysteries within. Even the doors of home are sacred. The Archeological Museum in Naples displays a set of Roman folding doors from a first century AD estate in Pompeii that was ruined by Mount Vesuvius.

However, there is another door closer to home, the door to our hearts; its challenge is to become aware of it, then pause before opening it to who or whatever is attracting us. With instincts activated, discernment is critical. In the in-between space, questions surface: Are lesser motives obscuring their toxicity? Is neediness demanding to be satiated? Who will benefit? What will I learn if I act? Or give in? Perhaps “No” is the wisest response when clarity is an issue. Such practice deepens humility and opens the psyche to spiritual guidance, without which we stagnate.

Thus we thrive in our flawed humanness and bring our unique gifts to fruition among others—the purpose of our existence.

 

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