I couldn’t have picked a more beautiful day to plant my first rose cutting. I know how ridiculous that must sound to everyone who has planted roses hundreds of times. But it’s the truth and a beautiful one at that.
I’ve always adored roses. Even as a young girl, I’ve loved them, especially the most common one in gardens where I grew up – the dark pink China variety. I remember one childhood incident. Both my parents worked and they had to leave home very early in the morning. I had begun attending kindy at that time and my parents had arranged for me to wait for my ride to the kindy, in my elderly neighbour’s house. Only I never stayed put inside the kindly old woman’s house. Captivated by all sorts of flowering plants this woman cultivated, I roamed in awe amongst her many pots.
My favourite spot had to be the fat rosebush just by this lady’s iron gate. And one morning, just one fat, dark pink rose sat in luscious complacency atop its throne of dew-wet leaves.
Now, if there was one thing I loved more than roses, it was the happy, cheery man who was my ride to school. He had a little carriage attached to his bicycle in which I sat, mostly alone, sometimes with another tiny companion. In all my years since those mirthful days, I’ve never known another happier person than that man with a heart of gold.
I never knew his name, though. It never occurred to me to ask my father his name because back in those days, my father reserved his sparse stock of politeness only for the rich and he likely wouldn’t have known or cared either. People like the man who did our lawns, or the one who brought us our groceries, and this one who took me to school, were treated with condescension.
Even as a child, I always winced at the way my parents treated the poor. If anything, even from that age, I felt very comfortable with the poor, and my parents’ treatment of them troubled me. I couldn’t understand just how people who had been poor themselves could forget their past so quickly.
I liked my kindy-man. My mother often narrated the tale about hearing me chatter nonstop at the highest decibels with this man as he carefully took me in his carriage to school. Each day, to and from school, I told him all the little things that were so important to me and he was a cheery and intent listener. Now, I wonder exactly how much he understood because I spoke only English and he barely did. But not once did he let on. Instead, for a few minutes each day, this golden~souled person allowed me to enjoy being at the centre of someone’s universe.
Something about his happiness must have touched me, I who seemed to find so many creative ways to upset my mother each day, I who could never please her.
And so, that fateful morn my neighbour’s cherub rose sat high above its green kingdom, I saw the perfect gift for my old friend. Hearing his approaching bell, in a thrice, I plucked that gorgeous bloom from its lofty perch. Climbing into the carriage, I cheerily waved to the unsuspecting old lady who stood by her front door, readying to go to her morning prayers.
Then, I gave the rose to the old man who laughed delightedly at it, promptly tucking it behind his ear. It was so funny to a five-year-old.
Now, decades later, what stands out so clearly about that morning is the wide grin that almost split his face.
The next morning, my old neighbour was waiting for me with a look I had never seen on her before. In measured tones that didn’t bode well for me, she asked if I had plucked her one and only rose. I told her I did and that I gave it to my kindy-man. Unmoved, she proceeded to very firmly tell me not to ever touch her flowers again as she wanted them for her prayer altar, where only the best flowers would do.
The woman was well within her rights to set me straight on the do’s and don’ts of her kingdom, but being the ever sensitive child I was, the sting of her rebuke stayed long and bitter with me. It certainly didn’t help that she informed my mother about it, thus helpfully adding another bullet to my mother’s already impressive arsenal against me.
Still, that did nothing to dampen my love for those old fashioned roses. Years later, we moved to another state where people led very busy lives and rosebushes became scant. I never thought of them much till I married a man who delighted in them.
But even with marriage, roses were always more my husband’s thing. He took great pride in his and it never occurred to me to want to grow any of my own – till sometime last year – when I was seized with a strange madness to have my own roses.
What I hadn’t known then was that the yearning for roses was my Heavenly Mother’s call to begin the building of a new life of freedom and joy. When the yearning took root in me, we hadn’t had roses in our garden for many long years, except for an old button rose bush my husband had been gifted with during his job posting down south. All the other roses he had grown so beautifully before had slowly died as we struggled through years of sorrow and grief. Although we mourned each rose death, it was all we could do to get up and go out to work each day during those dark years; to plant and to care for a garden was asking too much of us.
More than ten years passed before I told my husband I wanted us to plant roses again. I told him I wanted to try and build something of my own that didn’t bear the stamp of formal work and all the drudgery I associated with it. So many people had testified to gardening being therapeutic, and in dire need of healing from the almost daily wounds of work, I strongly felt that better days for me lay in the kingdom of roses.
My mistake was telling my husband about it.
Although he agreed heartily with my suggestion, he wanted to be the one to pick out the plants for me and to set them out in a pot. And what was left unspoken but as certain, was that he would guide me as I cared for them.
I knew just what guide meant.
But that’s just who my husband is – careful, deliberate and exacting, his vision of our new garden flowers the total opposite to my vision of a wild decadence of roses growing in profusion.
Granted, my husband has all the gardening-sense I don’t, and a whole lot more, but when our visions collided, my little rose-dream died an immediate death. My husband, though, went on to build up a beautiful rose patch from plants he had rescued from a closing down garden centre. I was so happy for him. Still, while I rejoiced over and enjoyed each new rose that bloomed now outside our front door, I never again thought about getting my own plant. There was no point to it if I had to go through my husband. I love my man dearly but I also wanted the freedom of planting and caring for my own roses, and the freedom of making mistakes even.
But no fence was high enough to keep out the rose-whisperer I had married.
Our Lady of Knock, Queen of Ireland, You gave hope to Your people in a time of distress, and comforted them in sorrow. You have inspired countless pilgrims to pray with confidence to Your divine Son, remembering His promise “Ask and you shall receive, seek and you shall find.” Help me to remember that we are all pilgrims on the road to heaven. Fill me with love and concern for my brothers and sisters in Christ, especially those who live with me. Comfort me when I am sick or lonely or depressed. Teach me how to take part ever more reverently in the holy Mass. Pray for me now, and at the hour of my death. Amen.
Our Lady of Knock, pray for us.
A few weeks ago, alone in church on a Friday, someone lightly tugged my heart towards the Knock apparition. I knew about it and made a mental note to look for a prayer to Our Lady of Knock. But soon, I forgot.
Until this morning. This morning, the above prayer popped up. Remembering my intention, I said the prayer, tracing each line with my heart. Then, in case I missed something about the apparition, I looked it up.
They called it the silent apparition.
Our Lady was silent, but through that silence, She communicated Her comforting presence to the broken and suffering. She didn’t need to use words to convince the suffering that She was with them.
That understanding hovered like fine mist over my heart. I knew something was being whispered to me.
A few short hours later, standing at my open window, enjoying the warm breezes play tag with each other, I suddenly saw that the clear afternoon sky was a vivid blue. It was sky-blue, but so rich and living a blue!
The beauty of that sky caught my heart and spun it in a dance! I hastened outside. Indeed, my eyes had not fooled me. As my heart sang in harmony with the jubilant wind~sashes trailing their gusts and breaths ecstatically across the sky, I knew that the blue robes the sky wore was the sign of Our Lady’s presence.
And then, I understood. Just like in Knock, She was telling me She was by my side, silent but ever present. In moments of joy and light. When the hours darkened. In my sadness. In hope.
Then, She put out a gentle but firm Hand and seized my heart and turned it towards roses.
Before I could even summon any hesitation or protest, my rose pot was ready and the first cutting sunk into moist soil. I carried it carefully and placed it just where the afternoon sun likes to linger, in a little spot within reach of my gaze as I cooked and washed and stilled myself.
Just like that, my little rose plant came to be, in a moment so silver~quick. I hope she lives – and thrives – under my care, because she stands for many things:
For all that I am hoping to change and improve about my old life. The way work controls me so much. The way I often miss so much of the beauty God places all around me. The noise within my heart.
For bits of the old which I still want to adorn my present. My abiding memories of that loving, old kindy-man, faithful to his duties till the end. Even of my elderly neighbour and the way she loved her God by giving Him only the best. For that time when the pace of life was gentle and unhurried, and it was easier to love.
For all the living that lies ahead of me.
But most of all, because I feel this little plant was gifted to me by my Heavenly Mother, silently watchful, ever by my side even when life binds me tight and away from Her.
I call my little friend Blue~Sky Rose. Because she came to be on this blue~gold day when the skies sang their hearts out in joyful ode to Heaven.