I’ve spent this last weekend up around Blowing Rock and Moses Cone. Saturday was cloudy, overcast and misty. Perfect for making all that is in bloom right now pop out, eye-catching red, pink, white, yellow, lavender and periwinkle blue wild flowers dotting the carriage trail from Bass Lake up to the Moses Cone Manor. Greens in various shades of brightness and intensity, back lit by a muddled sunlight. A variety of grasses, swaying like a wave with the wind in a field bordered by an old stone wall carpeted with moss. And a butterfly that was puddling (a fellow hiker told me this was what she was doing, gently warming her wings as she rested on the trail), allowing me to appreciate the dreamy orange, brown and white leopard-like pattern of her, so beautiful that it brought me to tears and made me think of Mary Oliver’s poem, The Summer Day.

It’s a little too early for the rhododendron to be in full bloom, but the buds are starting to hint at what is to come in a few weeks. According to Wikipedia, the ancient Greeks named this plant “rose tree,” and here in North Carolina these beautiful shrubs and trees thrive. There were a few buds that couldn’t contain themselves, and the occasional stand outs were showcasing the various stages of the flower. The bud debuts in the shape and color of an almond and then morphs into a hard and green artichoke shaped acorn atop a spray of leaves. It then loosens, letting its magenta petals begin to peek from of the base of the bud as it grows, folded flat at first but eventually puffing out like pink popcorn. Finally, the front runners I saw yesterday push open into a cluster of white flowers bundled together in a charming bouquet. The hint of pink still holds on to the edges of the petals, with a freckled, light chartreuse green marking on the middle segment, and white and pink stamens shoot out through the center of each little individual blossom inviting pollination.  

As I appreciated each stage of development in the rhododendron flower yesterday, I realized that one stage is not better than another. And the same is true of my phases of growth. I may have to begin learning something simply, like the almond-like bud. And then there are areas of my life that resemble the final product of full flowering after years of honing and integrating skills. A baby fern caught my eye as I was thinking about this concept on my hike, and I immediately felt an affection and tenderness for it because it was so tiny, fragile and cute. Who doesn’t love melt around a kitten, puppy or baby duckling? 

May I have this maternal lovingkindness towards all parts of myself, especially the most needy and tender.