Yesterday, our family made a trip into the city for some much needed shopping. As always, I made a list and hoped we’d get all we wanted and that the day would go well. I had concerns because while shopping is always fun for us when it is being planned, it quickly becomes tiring when we’ve been on our feet for too long and more so if we run into problems over the stuff we planned to get. Plus, the travelling to and from the city taking close to 4 hours both ways is enough to blunt at least some of the fun.
Still, I knew that it is often the choices we make and the way we react to life that actually decides the outcome of any endeavour. With the right choices, choosing roads that lead to life, no matter how much the path twists and bends, life will sort itself out in the end. And even if things don’t go as planned, we always have the option of choosing how we react to it – we could either seek to find silver linings and thus save the day or get snarky and irritable and make things worse.
Hence, in the serene quiet of the morning, I decided even before we piled into the car that I was going to keep my heart on my husband and kids and focus on enjoying my day with them whatever shopping potholes we hit along the way. Our second child was due to leave home for college in a few short months and with two of our children – our great joy~gifters – embarking on the next phase of their lives, I knew that an aching quiet would soon find its way into our hearts. No matter how important and necessary the shopping was, making sweet memories was by far the greater call.
And what a day it turned out to be. Quietly and gently, the angels went about tucking little blooms into our hours. We didn’t get quite a few of the things we really needed and everything was so costly. But we had cheerful and kind sales assistants who made the shopping pleasant. The roads we traveled along were mostly traffic free and we easily found good places to park our car wherever we stopped. While we experienced a brief moment of disappointment when one favourite restaurant was found to have shuttered, we went to another and enjoyed the most amazing lunch.
The last thing on our list before we ended the day with sunset Mass at church was a quick stop at a garden centre. I was looking to add some colour to my garden, but with my gardening success rate being about 20 per cent, it had to be plants which could take my mostly erratic and sometimes over-enthusiastic bouts of gardening.
I had daisies in mind but the angels had set aside something else for me. Carefully making my way down the aisles at the garden centre, I suddenly spied pots of happily-coloured periwinkles. I already had a wee purple~pink plant which I had sent to the cliff’s edge of life and then thankfully saved. Having forgiven me now, it was growing by our fence, getting stronger by the day. But now here was a new baby, a pot of the sweetest reddish pink blooms, smiling up at me beguilingly.
So, of course that pot came home with us, its blooms with their girlish blush brightening its wee spot under our bedroom window. Later, reading up on this latest addition to our family, sunshine and song spilled into my heart. I discovered that the periwinkle is also known to be a miracle plant due to medicinal extracts from the plant being used in the successful treatment of cancers, especially childhood cancers, and other illnesses. It’s always a joy to have colourful flowers to brighten the garden but if the plants yield cures for our deeper sufferings, the power of strength and hope are added to their colourful blessings.
I do hope this new periwinkle puts down strong roots into our garden so that I can always gaze at them and remember a day embroidered with little miracles, a day that went so well because we placed our plans in God’s hands and kept our eyes on what mattered the most: time with family. Paul Bowles wrote these lines in his book, The Sheltering Sky,
…Because we don’t know when we will die, we get to think of life as an inexhaustible well yet everything happens a certain number of times, and a very small number, really. How many more times will you remember a certain afternoon of your life like this, some afternoon that’s so deeply part of your being that you can’t ever consider your life without it, perhaps four or five time more, perhaps not even that? How many more times will you watch the full moon rises? Perhaps twenty, and yet it all seems limitless… ~
But it isn’t limitless. There is a time and a place and a manner in which the petals of our life will close back in and the passing over to the next life will begin. We could live one day today and in the next find life has changed unalterably, that it’s no longer possible to go back into time and retrieve what has been taken away, what we have consciously given up or even what we have let slip from us. A great many of us have known this grief, the grief that comes when the path shifts and bends sharply. There is no going back, only forwards…
But as I learned yet again on this gentle day of the softest sunshine, that in choosing to focus on what really yields true life, we open our hearts to the gift of miracles. No matter how hard the roads of life can become, along the right way, there will always be the sweetest periwinkles, the kind we can pick and tuck into our hearts and take with us, henceforth moving forwards and onwards with renewed hope and joy.