Happy St. Nicholas Day! If you're looking for background on this holiday or for a more theological approach, head to this post on my theology blog.
If we're aware of St. Nicholas Day at all, we are likely to see it as an early gift-giving opportunity. This morning I decided to give myself the gift of time to write a poem, something that I haven't done in almost a month. I knew that when I was scheduling my Autumn of Frequent Travels that my writing might suffer, but my hope is that I've stored up some ideas for later poems. Time shall tell.
This morning's poem had nothing to do with my autumn travels. I've spent the last week delighting in the fact that our poinsettia bush has turned red again, for the third year in a row.
Last year, I took this picture because I was convinced that I would never see the phenomenon again:
Yes, that's a poinsettia bush--so unlike what I've ever seen before.
After Christmas of 2009, my spouse plunked a spindly poinsettia into the yard after Christmas Eve service. I didn't have much hope for it. After all, years ago I tried to nurse a poinsettia through the year to have it turn red in time for the following Christmas. My grandmother described a cumbersome process of watering and refraining from watering, of putting a bag over the plant and putting it in a closet where it would silently turn red for Christmas. My poinsettia died.
Imagine my surprise when our 2009 poinsettia not only survived but thrived and turned into a bush with deep green leaves. And then, I was even more delighted to see the plant turn red in November.
And this year, the plant has turned red again!
I have always assumed that the poinsettia was a northern plant, but it's not. It's native to Mexico, in fact. So in retrospect, it's not a surprise that this plant does so well in our yard of South Florida sand and the compost that we create copiously in hopes of keeping plants alive.
So, this morning, with Advent verses of restored homelands and young women pregnant with inchoate mystery ringing in my head, I wrote about our poinsettia bush.
I'm tempted to go back and load the poem with more: more Advent allusions, more about our family farming heritage. My spouse's family is from southern Indiana and my family farmed in east Tennessee and central South Carolina, and I often think of those rich soils and wish I could transport some of that dark dirt. I'm also thinking of my mom's cousin, who spent years growing poinsettias in a greenhouse in South Carolina, a very profitable business, but one that leads to a very hectic Advent. I'm thinking of the tiny poinsettia seedlings that I've seen in her greenhouse and the huge bush in my yard.
But maybe I won't weigh the poem down with all that. Or maybe I'll write a series. Or maybe I'll go on to other ideas I've had. A few weeks ago I was leaving the gym and I noticed a row of beefy guys working out on machines, and I had a flash to monks worshipping. Could I make that work? I bet I could.
I hope this St. Nicholas Day gives you the presents you need, the treats you want, whether it's a poem draft or kindness from a stranger or a good day at work or harmony at home. May your shoes be filled with good gifts!
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