Tuesday, May 27, 2008

The trees were holding out on me.

Thank you to those who contributed to my survey in the last post... interesting data, indeed! Feel free to add a comment, if you haven't yet, and I will let you know when I draw conclusions.

It's amazing how much Vancouver can change in a week and a half! As I walk the route from my bus stop to my house, I am reminded that I do not know the trees at all. I do not know the flowers at all. I thought I did, because I've walked that same route for three years now, with one important exception: I've missed a crucial 4-month period every year. Yes, this is my first Vancouver summer. This is my first Vancouver month of May.

Familiar trees that I know by heart in September and March are now unrecognizable, covered in unexpected blossoms or fresh leaves. There are strange and beautiful orange flowers growing by the front steps that I have never seen before. I am enjoying being taken by surprise. Trees and bushes
I scarcely noticed before are springing to my attention, like when one instrument suddenly stands out in the orchestra.

Let me give you an example. There's a scraggly tree on Alma &3rd, he's a chaotic mess of thin branches growing in all directions from a thick stump. He's a species I've never seen before, and I've never been able to identify him. He grows in the yard of a man who collects other people's junk. He's not an immediately lovable tree, but I've grown to love him for his scraggliness, just like I've grown a secret affection for this little long-haired junk-collecting man I've seen but never actually talked to. The other day, as I approached the tree on my walk home, instead of scraggly branches, I saw what looked like soft pink dreadlocks.
Every branch was covered with the tiniest pink flowers, bringing out a softer side of him I'd never seen. He reminded me of something out of a Dr. Seuss book! Or perhaps Sideshow Bob's hair, if it were pink (for the Simpsons fans out there). I felt a sense of pride in this tree I'd grown to love over three autumns and winters and springs. He had been holding out on me! Actually, I had been missing out on him. I imagined everyone looking at him and enjoying him a little more than usual. I also wanted people to know that I loved him before I knew he was beautiful.

This whole experience of Vancouver flora in May reminds me of similar experiences with people. I don't know if anyone else is reminded of people when they look at plants... it may be a weird side effect of being both a biologist and a pastor-in-training.... Anyway, I am being reminded of times when people I love reveal some gift or talent I never knew they had. Like when I returned home from Belgium, and my brother could suddenly play saxophone. Or when I heard Chris sing for the first time. Or the first time I saw Danice interact with her youth. It's such a great feeling, because you already love the person, but it gives you one more reason to love them, one more dimension to that love. It also reminds me that even when I think I know someone, I don't know all of them. This is something God's been teaching me for a few years - people are rarely as good or as bad as I think they are. There are beautiful and ugly sides to people I rarely see. Which is great motivation to pay closer attention in all seasons, and love them in all seasons.