Tuesday, July 31, 2012

This Shamrock's No Sham: Luck Is Having Friends

I have a shamrock sitting on the top shelf of the corner shelves. It has survived forgotten waterings, a move from Kentucky to Texas, and a toddler. It's 3 or 4 years old. And my favorite thing about it, is that occasionally, the leaves and stems die down, and you think - ah! I fear it's given up the ghost! But if you trickle a little water and wait a day, up come new shoots bearing tightly furled purple leaves. It is the phoenix of plants, and I love it - its cycle of death and resurrection.
Perhaps this is normal for a shamrock - to flourish indoors in a pot for several years, given new soil only once, watered faithfully some weeks and...not so faithfully other weeks.
A few years ago - well, alright, let's see - seven or eight years ago, I made a friend. She sent me a stuffed tiger through the mail (yes, I was an adult). Turns out, we grew up about thirty miles from each other, never knowing in those years we'd grow up, move away, I'd go to seminary and would date the brother of the pastor of her church, then, that we'd go on the same trip to Oxford, England. 
I ended up sharing a rambling old house on a small-town thoroughfare with her, her wee son, and our friend Emily.
I got married and moved several miles away, but on Friday nights, she would come over for supper and watch Something British on Netflix, unwinding from her art studio-splattered life. And on one St. Patrick's Day, she brought a shamrock. 
I'd never had a shamrock before: ivy, yes; African violets, yes. 
When someone gives a gift, it's usual to look at it and think of them - a tiny decorative vintage iron reminds me of my dear friend Krista. A gorgeous, wavy-edged plate with a watercolored pear reminds me of sweet Melissa. They're tangible reminders of people who love me, who live far away. I need that. You need that.
I haven't received many plants as gifts thus far in life, and this is what I've found: they're living. If you're lucky (unlike my friend Emily), they stay living. It's comforting to have something living journey with you from address to address, state to state - even life stage to life stage. After all, I've been caring for this plant longer than I've been caring for a child. This shamrock pre-dates wee Jack (well, there's nothing 'wee' about him). Now, there have been several times that I thought the poor shamrock had bit the dust. But it's always come back. And that's the kind of plant I need - a forgiving one, one that keeps coming back, that doesn't waste a drop of water or slant of sunlight but that uses each little bit as it responds quickly to whatever care is given it. It's never really grown, but - it's never died, either. And Not Going Anywhere is an underappreciated quality. 
We Americans like big, flashy, fast. Show us a giant blueberry bush that produces buckets of berries the first season on little fertilizer, and we're hooked - they may have little taste, but they're quick, they're big.
I'm not always great about keeping in touch regularly with good friends. A few months go by before I look up and notice. But the beautiful thing, like this shamrock, is that they're still there. And when a few months go by before I get a call, I am still there too.
If I was superstitious, I'd just think that the shamrock was, well, lucky. But with the enormous upheaval in every area of my life the past few years, I'm just grateful that Something Has Lived - whether newlywed or laid off, pregnant or with a newborn, writing or pastoring, in the Bluegrass or the Lone Star - I've had the same tiny little routine, trickling water onto a shamrock that wouldn't give up.

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