It’s springtime in western Washington, and the landscape around my apartment complex is strewn with pink flower petals from surrounding trees—so splashy and lavish. It’s as if spring refuses to be taken for granted and demands our awe and wonder.
Some of the falling petals stick to my shoes; others litter the entrance to my building, where, stripped of their once-regal form and blown by the wind, they are considered a nuisance that needs to be swept up. But when I step on them as I pass, I’m aware that I am treading on something precious.
Shortly after he was ordained, Fr. Greg Boyle, a Jesuit priest, was asked to say mass in Bolivia. Feeling insecure because he did not know the native language, and having misplaced his notes, Fr. Boyle stumbled through the service with the help of an interpreter. Afterward he felt spent and humiliated. But when the crowd had dispersed, he was approached by old man who seemed to appear out of nowhere. The man said, “Thanks for coming” in his native tongue, and then proceeded to reach into his pocket to retrieve two, three, four handfuls of rose petals.
Standing on tiptoes, the man dropped the petals over Fr. Boyle’s head, handful after handful—“and the store of red, pink, and yellow rose petals seem[ed] infinite.” With head bowed, Boyle just stood there staring at his shoes, by then covered with tears and rose petals.
On this spring day I make a trip to the store while pink blossoms keep falling on the ground before me. But now I’m distracted by a number of things: did I lose the dog leash? Why hasn’t my friend called me back? How much money do I have left for groceries? My mind is like a crow, picking up anything that glimmers and displacing any peace and gratitude I may have had earlier in the day. But a comment from a person at the grocery store who mistook the petals stuck to my shoes for some kind of funky art helps my mind dissolve the stream of worry and preoccupation and brings me back to the miracle of the present moment.
Singer-songwriter Carrie Newcomer’s song “Holy as a Day Is Spent” voices prayers of praise and gratitude for the ordinary events of everyday life. She says, “Redemption is everywhere I look,” and, “It’s all a part of a sacrament.” She knows that it’s all gift.
I’ve decided that when all the blossoms are gone there will be other things that will fill me with wonder: a dog running in a field, the lines on an old person’s face, the beauty of a baby, fresh herbs on a salad. Maybe even things that bring me to my knees and cause doubt and grief—because it’s all a gift and it all contributes to the person I am constantly becoming through Christ, who loves me just the way I am.
I’ve decided to be mindful of unexpected gifts and of the Giver, no matter what the season.