Fair trees! wheresoe'er your barks I woundNo name shall but your own be found.-Andrew Marvell
My old housemate Paul from my commune-days, in addition to his Easter fish breakfasts and his wild celebation, was infamous for his stories. One of my favorites involved the time a Romanian pastor who was somewhat of a horticultural fanatic visited his community in the very lush city of San Francisco. Because of the Bay Area’s year-round temperate and rainy weather, it supports a wide range of plant life, including many that are only found in rainforests.
“What’s that one called?” the wide-eyed Romanian asked Paul as they walked.
“Gee, I don’t know that one,” Paul answered awkwardly and somewhat deceptively. Truth be told, it was not just “that one” whose name had escaped him.
“Ooh, what’s the name of that one?” the Romanian chimed within the next minute or two in their stroll through the veritable horticultural wonderland.
“You know, I actually don’t know much about plants,” Paul replied a little more truthfully.
This admission did not deter the enthusiast, however, and soon as their walk took them by another green spectacle he interjected yet again, “Wow! What do you call that one?”
Finally Paul attempted to make himself clear. “Look, I actually don’t know the names of any of these. I might be able to point out an oak on a good day, but I can guarantee you that I will be entirely unable to give you the names of any of the plants that you don’t already know.”
As the full confession sunk in, the Romanian looked at Paul with shocked surprise. “But Paul,” he gasped at bit breathlessly, “if you don’t know their names, how can you love them?”
I remembered that story this week as I attempted to do damage control on my poor urban garden that has never really gotten very far off the ground. I thought about the lush world of beauty around me, the many unique spectacles of nature that I pass by every day, rarely noticing them enough even to wonder their names.
And I thought about the redemption that we long to be a part of, whether the redemption Christ began in the Incarnation or that which he will complete in the New Creation when “The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad” and “the desert shall rejoice and blossom like the crocus.” What a very earthy redemption that will be!
Come Lord Jesus. In the mean time, may we be attentive to prepare places for you in the physical matter of the creation that waits with us for new birth. May your kingdom come and your will be done on earth as it is in heaven, and may we there with shovels in that earth to hallow the places we inhabit.