They’re sun yellow and fresh orange and rust red. And they show their brilliant colors even as they pull their tidy green skirts tightly up around themselves – both when they are shyly beginning to greet the world, and when they are reluctantly leaving it.
I suspect it’s one of the things I admire most about marigolds. I can never tell if one of their colorful blooms is just being born or just beginning to die. They look identical to me. That’s why I hesitate to pinch them off. I’m never quite sure if I may be pinching off one that is just getting ready to let the sunshine kiss its face, instead of one that is stepping back from the light, closing itself away to prepare new seeds for the next generation.
I hadn’t grown marigolds for years. But this summer I filled the window boxes that flounce down the east side of my house with a variety of different plants – from herbs to vines, colorful leafy types to scented blossoms. No two boxes are alike. I did it rather experimentally, watching which ones liked the early morning light and napping in the afternoon shade best. And, at the far northeast corner of the house, I plopped in some old-fashioned marigolds in a variety of firelight colors.
I love my flower boxes – which actually encircle the house on three of its sides – even though I must water them everyday because they drain so freely and are sheltered from the rain under the eaves of the roof. But I’ve particularly enjoyed this experimental east side of the house this year. And particularly this daily watering ritual that brings me into such close harmony with them. I touch and trim and talk to them. I pinch back their sassy bits that poke out too far or drag their skirts on the ground or lace their fingers into the window screens or shutters more than they should. And it is this interactive relationship with them that has allowed me to really observe the comings and goings of the marigolds especially – the door-half-open-half-closed way they have of living their lives.
Perhaps I noticed this about them also in no small part because of our current state of mind and affairs – around our world, around our country, around each of us individually, even around our very earth itself that holds us all together. Because it all seems to be so much like the marigold blooms in transition – the dying of it looks confusingly like the rebirth of it. Sometimes we seem to be trying to pinch so much of it off, to cast it all away – but without consideration of what we may be losing. And, at the same time, we seem to be wanting to nurture and quench and shade and protect much of it too – but without patience, without trust. Perhaps it is all a part of the inherent wonder of transition and transformation.
I suspect we have all lost a good bit of our wonder and patience and trust over the past few years. Perhaps the marigolds can be our reminders. Reminders that sometimes we have to just wait, even when it’s hard; to anticipate and enjoy the blossoms of today, but also to let them go so they can become the seeds of growth. And to accept our individual limitations of discernment – that we may not always know what is best for every bud and blossom, or even each other. Perhaps, like tending marigolds, we are sometimes meant to simply trust enough in the wild and wondrous wisdom of what cannot yet be seen.
“You may be deceived if you trust too much; but you will live in torment unless you trust enough.” – Frank Crane