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Hope in a tulip bulb

Planting kindness and encouragement

By Carolyn Pogue

This season, the last of the garden is being harvested; preserves are lining basement shelves; freezers are filling. And gardeners are planting bulbs.

This week, our neighbour wiped his soiled hands on his jeans and announced that he’d just planted tulips. “I hope the squirrels don’t get them all,” he said. I’ve been thinking about those bulbs ever since, imagining them silently preparing to make spring magic.

Planting is risky business. The weather may not co-operate. A cat might unearth the bulbs, or hungry squirrels. And yet, if my neighbour followed the rules, chances are that around Easter, passersby will revel in his flowers, bright as the morning sun. Here are a few guidelines I’ve learned:

1. Choose firm, healthy bulbs.
2. Choose a sunny location. Remove obstacles to growth, such as weeds or stones.
3. Loosen the soil and give it a little air.
4. Plant bulbs gently and firmly; roots down, tips up.
5. Plant them in little groups. They like company but not crowding.
6. Use your own two hands to gently replace the soil.
7. Add a little bit of water if the soil is very dry.
8. Wait. Maybe pray. Maybe sing a little tulip song as a lullaby.

I think these same rules apply to planting hope in the soil of our own hearts. You want to choose firm, healthy ideas. You want to remove obstacles as best you can and plant in good aerated soil in a sunny location. Hope needs tender care, prayer and patience, and I’m quite certain it likes to have lullabies sung to it.

This fall, I’m planting the hope I felt listening to the new moderator of The United Church of Canada, the Rt. Rev. Gary Paterson of Vancouver. He came to Hillhurst United in Calgary last Sunday and shared his vision for church beyond the walls of buildings. To his responsibility as our spiritual leader, he brought his sense of humour, his compassion and energy, and his poet’s heart. I hope that all Canada will get to know him.

I’m planting the kindness of my neighbour Trudy Herrington. After the World Trade Center towers fell in 9/11, she thought deeply about the role of firefighters. Then she put on her apron, turned on her oven and began what has become almost 12 years of regular monthly baking. Trudy bakes cookies, loaves, buns, pies and tarts for “her boys” at the nearby fire hall. A couple of times, I’ve looked out my window and noticed a fire truck. No cause for alarm, I found, just one of her guys stopping by.

I’m planting the encouragement I feel knowing that on Oct. 16, there was a press conference in Vancouver. There, Nobel laureate Jody Williams and other women activists spoke about their recent eight-day listening tour in Alberta and British Columbia. They had started by visiting women in and near Fort McMurray, Alta., who feel the impact of the oil sands directly on their relationships, work, land and children. The delegation then travelled to communities along the route of the proposed Northern Gateway pipeline to hear how women there feel about what the pipeline will bring to the land and their lives. These are voices we need to hear.

And so, I expect to celebrate tulips and much more next spring.

Author's photo
Carolyn Pogue is a longtime Observer contributor. New posts of The Pogue Blog will appear on the first and third Thursday of the month. For more information on Carolyn Pogue, visit www.carolynpogue.ca..
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