Friday, January 31, 2014

Everything I need to know about grief I learned from my plants (well, not really) but...

‎"The seed is in the ground. Now may we rest in hope while darkness does its work." Wendell Berry

I have a little spot in my new home, just under the stairs, and I call it my St Francis wall. St Francis is my favorite of all the saints, save San Juan de la Cruz, and I love having a little place in my home to remain conscious of his compassionate axioms.

For about two months, I had some wonderful little plants surrounding my Francis wall. I bought a 'forever sun' lamp which I kept on 24 hours a day (see the light shining from the corner) because this space had no natural lighting at all. 

However, my once-little happy plants began to change. They were not doing well. 

They were sick, obviously, and needed care. I tried variously things over the course of a few weeks… but nothing worked. 

Then, I thought about grief.

"Oh my gosh! Of course!" I thought, "The plants are not getting darkness now at all, are they?"  

I went to the literature and found out that, indeed, plants require darkness for photosynthesis. A carbon reaction reduces CO2 to form carbohydrates and thus to release oxygen. This happens only in the darkness of the night. The darkness is also necessary for photoperiod, the process by which the plant prepares itself for flowering, for blossoming.

Talk about a 'doy' moment of perspicuity. 

When I read about this process for plants, I sat down and cried. Nature, the Great Teacher, thank you, thank you. 

Of course. 

We need the darkness to be whole, to be healthy, to blossom. 

My plant, now, after now being exposed to darkness again looks entirely different.

           ...And so do I.


Mary said...

Oh, Joanne, what a gift to you and to all of your "light bulb moment" (sorry, I had to say it :)) regarding the darkness. I never would have thought about that either but yes, of course that plant needs "night" the dark nights (ala St. John of the Cross) so it can blossom and grow. Just as the seeds need the darkness in the earth to root and shoot upward. And your plant surely did just that. What a huge I will never forget. Thank you for sharing this. We who grieve sometimes (often) want the darkness of grief to disappear but of course, that is futile. Thank you again. Mary

Unknown said...

What a beautiful insight into how darkness can help us grow. My heart will not forget this story amidst my grieving in this life, even when my mind gets lost. Thank you.


The soul still sings in the darkness telling of the beauty she found there; and daring us not to think that because she passed through such tortures of anguish, doubt, dread, and horror, as has been said, she ran any the more danger of being lost in the night. Nay, in the darkness did she, rather, find herself.

--St. John, Dark Night of the Soul

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