A couple of years ago I placed a mail order for amaryllis bulbs for a New Year’s ritual at Bosque CSL. I was a little late ordering and they didn’t arrive in time for our service, so Travis found a last-minute substitute on a clearance rack at Target, which we used instead, and it bloomed to lovely effect. The ones I’d purchased showed up a few days later and we planted them in a pot at home.
They produced some of the most spectacular flowers I’d ever seen.
Each of the three bulbs sent up two healthy stalks, and each stalk produced multiple magnificent white flowers. They lasted for weeks, all blousy and billowy and frilly and free. Man, they were gorgeous.
After their blooms were spent, we cut the stalks and let the leaves soak up sunlight on our front porch for most of the rest of the year. I had done a little research about how to facilitate their next flowering cycle: cut off dead foliage, remove the bulbs from potting medium, place in a cool, dark location for 6-8 weeks; after this period of dormancy, re-pot, water, and the amaryllis should bloom again.
I had every good intention of following these instructions. But one day I got impatient with clutter on the sunporch, so instead of this careful tending, I just hacked off the leaves and shoved the entire terra cotta pot, soil and bulbs and all, into a paper bag and put the whole mess in the basement. Then, I forgot about them.
This week, Travis was searching for something in the cellar, and he found the paper bag containing last year’s amaryllises. They hadn’t been watered in seven or eight months. They hadn’t seen a single ray of sunlight. But they’d gone ahead and bloomed again anyway, in the dark.
And not just in the dark, but in a paper shopping bag in the dark. So they were quite hunched over. And without sunlight or the ability to photosynthesize, their stalks and stems hadn’t achieved their rich green but were instead more of a pale chartreuse.
Still, the blooms are no less glorious — humongous white silky exuberances.
Travis and I keep talking about them as a positive harbinger, an inspiring example of life’s great resilience and persistence, the unstoppable urge to grow and to flower. To create, to be beautiful. Even in the dark.
I’m not sure how this story goes with what I was planning to talk about this week. Maybe it’s a counter-point, maybe it’s an answer, or maybe it’s totally out in left field. I haven’t worked out the details yet.
I thought my topic was fear — how we’re all wrestling with fear and dread in our own way during these strange times, how our individual experiences and expressions of fear inform and affect each other and all of us together. I’d found out some interesting facts about the biology of fear, some spiritual guidance for reckoning with fear…
My punny title, “Frayed Knot” was maybe going to take on annoying blanket panaceas like, “Love is the opposite of fear. I stand in Love. So how can I be afraid? Not!”
Instead of simply trying to dismiss or cover up our fears with sloppy slogans like that, I think we might do better to recognize that our fears are indeed like knots — sometimes tying us up unnecessarily and sometimes rather usefully holding us together. Addressing our fears directly, reckoning honestly with what scares us, can help us to loosen those knots that bind without unraveling us completely from the eminently reasonable cares and concerns that provide our safety nets.
But at the same time that I’ve been thinking about fear, journaling about fear, researching fear, I’ve also been delighting in these extraordinarily beautiful amaryllis blooms that grew in the dark.
So now I’m thinking: maybe the opposite of Fear isn’t Love, it’s Growth. Or maybe Love and Growth aren’t the opposites of anything. More like — they are both part of the very same Wholeness that includes all our fears and shame and loneliness, that must include our despairs and doubts, our humanness.
Like many of us, I’ve spent quite a bit of time over these past several weeks alone in the dark cellars of my soul, feeling half-forgotten in a grocery bag. But I’m starting to notice: What’s growing here? Something. And I’m willing to believe that it might be surprising and wonderful and splendiferous.
© 2020 Drew Groves