by Cappy Hall Rearick
“Life is not measured by the breaths we take...
but by the moments that take our breath away.”
Things were not so astonishing when I lived out West. Southern California is overrun with palm trees and bougainvillea, and the hills are alive with the blooms of magnolias. There are oaks almost as tall and droopy as if they were grown right here in Georgia. What they don’t have, and what I missed seeing the most, were dogwood trees.
What a culture shock it was for me to discover I was living in a state totally lacking the beauty of a four-cornered, white flowering tree that presents itself each spring in order to remind us of what Easter is all about.
They don’t have lightning bugs out there, either. On warm summer nights, I would often gaze out my window in hopes of seeing a lightning bug flicker across the dark sky. I marvel that California kids actually go through an entire childhood without housing lightning bugs in a Dukes Mayonnaise jar with holes punched in the top.
As the spring seasonal changes began to move toward Easter, I always felt emotionally compromised, aching for azaleas and dogwoods mixed on one lawn after another with yellow daffodils. My soul longed for a glimpse of the flowers and trees of the South Carolina Low Country.
The impressive exhibition of colorful azaleas and roses down at the Edisto Gardens in the small town where I grew up, presented a living painting that surpasses my ability to describe. Monet would have loved it. Every possible shade, hue and color of Azaleas were backed up by countless dogwood trees, robust with blossoms nothing short of dramatic.
Every Easter, the church choirs in the area came together to sing at the Sunrise Service held in the midst of the burgeoning gardens. The flowers, discerning their role in the planned program, managed to slash through the fog of early morning light to deliver hope to those of us waiting for the sunrise.
I was always cold arriving at the gardens, even wearing three layers of clothes underneath my choir robe. Others, also dressed in layers, moved quietly up the hill hoping to find the best perch on which to listen to the music and hear the message of hope. I remember watching them as they gathered in the dark, greeting one another with a hug or a handshake and always a smile.
What a magnificent sight when the sun did come up. Standing with other choir members on the slight incline we called a hill, I looked out at a spring bouquet of flowers that stretched over a two-mile radius. It was like looking at a never-ending mural. It was the official nod that welcomed in the new season, rich with the birth of flowers colorful as Easter Eggs that sprouting from grass as green as shamrocks.
We sang, “Up From The Grave He Arose,” “In The Garden,” “On a Hill Far Away,” and other familiar Easter hymns. Friends and neighbors in our little town welcomed Easter while the sun crept up slowly, yawning itself into the newborn day — God’s other gift to humankind.
So there you have it — the reason I look forward to the last cold snap, the final week of shivers, socks and sweaters. I’ll probably fret about the bulbs I’ve put in the ground and I’ll definitely need to pray for the survival of the already stressed out hydrangeas I bought on sale and planted in the back yard. But in the end, I will rely on things I learned during those cold Easter Sunrise Services.
I will depend on my early conditioning to fill me once again with faith that our garden, as well as our world, will once again burst into bloom. I will see the flicker of lightening bugs from out my window and when the morning comes, I will wake up to azaleas, dogwoods and yellow daffodils.
In the meantime, I’ll keep collecting Dukes Mayonnaise jars for my grandkids, all of whom might one day teach their children how to catch lightning bugs on warm summer nights.
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