A wash of swamp grass started my mind down a trail of thinking about how often the magnificent is preceded by the mundane or difficult. We were in a group visiting Bellingrath Gardens with all its spring splendor – the anticipated azaleas and bulb flowers, groupings of common and unusual plants, and unexpected vistas as we turned a corner.
Al was disappointed that the roses were not blooming yet, their bare stems pruned back awaiting warmer weather. Expert that I am, I explained to him that a good garden whether of Bellingrath’s stature or the one we have at home always has the promise of more to come along with the beauty of the present season. Then we took the boat tour and came upon the swamp grass.
Our guide explained that the long strips of mundane swamp grass filtered the salt water that came in from the ocean so that it did not mingle with the fresh water on the other side. Without it the plants on the other side would be killed by the salt. That’s when I began to consider how often magnificence happens because of hard or boring work that may only seem tolerable because its ultimate promise.
That layout of Thanksgiving dinner involves chopping a quantity of celery, peppers, and onions; hours baking cakes and pies; and thoughtful remembrance of individuals’ perceived or real dietary requirements.
I thought of the upcoming Faye B. Kaigler Book Festival, which I’m doing frequently these days like a child anticipating Christmas (12 days away). Always magnificent, one would be hard put to count the hours of scheduling participants, making travel and hotel arrangements, producing brochures, lining up volunteers, and putting out fires as plans go astray – like a tornado’s destruction of the Ogletree House where dinners for the guests have been held.
Piano or voice recitals that move listeners to joy and tears seem to flow effortlessly, but they could not happen without hours of practice and mundane exercises that include boring repetitions going up and down the scales.
What glory there is for the athlete who scores a 3-pointer at the last buzzer that breaks a tie and keeps his team in the tournament! You know the truth. That 3-pointer represented hours and hours of practice with no spectators cheering him on.
Then there’s that book that you can’t put down. The more it seems that the words must have flowed straight from the writer’s pen – or computer, the more likely it is that it represented rewrite after rewrite with the author sweating out the exact right word over and over again.
I thought I had finished this piece until I sat last night during the last moments of quiet darkness at our church’s Tenebrae service and realized I had neglected a more important model. How had I missed it? Was not the abandonment by friends, death on a cross, and burial in a borrowed tomb the precursor to the magnificence of Easter’s resurrection?