It’s spring in the Sonoran Desert when new life returns again to mother earth. For humans living through a long and isolating pandemic, the hope of spring is sorely needed today. Just as the crocus flower can break through the snow, the cactus flower reminds us of how little is needed for flowers to blossom. Each calls out for us to wait. For even in the darkest, most barren, and coldest (or driest) of times, new life will appear. We only must wait to observe the miracle unfolding before us.
The spring flowers we love the most are those that sneak up upon us. They are with us for just an instant. If we are too busy, if we blink, the flowers are gone. The fields of wild, California poppies, and the flowering, desert cactus are here for only a moment in time. Just like the blossoming cherry blossom trees, we must be on the alert to catch their splendor. The Japanese, who are great nature lovers, track the blossoming trees on their nightly news. They call this moment “muju” which means impermanence. There is a bittersweet quality to a beauty that is so fleeting, so transient and so ephemeral. The beauty of the flowering cherry trees soon becomes the beauty of the falling leaves in autumn. The Japanese celebrate the blossoming cherry trees, for they understand that this moment won’t last.
Change is inevitable. If we are lucky and have been paying close attention, we too can awaken from a long sleep. We hold the memories of spring within us and keep the metaphor close to our hearts. For no matter how dark the time, nature cries out that new life will appear. Maybe only for a moment, maybe only for that single blink of an eye, but it’s here and it will return again. So, may it be for each of us.
In the story of “Goldenrod and Aster,” we see that the wise old woman understands the singular importance of this beauty. The children in the story say, “We would like to become a pleasure and a joy to everyone who meets us." The wise crone’s response is a powerful reminder of what is truly important.
Two little girls once lived at the foot of the highest hill in the world. One little girl had hair as yellow as the golden sunshine. The other little girl had eyes as purple as the violets of springtime.
"Do you know who lives at the top of this hill?" asked Golden Hair one day.
"No. Who?" said Blue Eyes.
"Don't you really know?" asked Golden Hair.
"No, I really do not know!" answered Blue Eyes.
"Well, then, I will tell you," said the little girl, shaking out her golden curls. "Up at the top of this highest hill in the world lives an old woman. In her orchard are beautiful ripe apples, which anyone may have for the picking. In her garden are fluffy-tailed, tame squirrels, which one may play with all day long. In her cupboard are jars and jars of sweet cakes, of which one may eat as many as she chooses."
"Oh, let us visit the old woman," said Blue Eyes, springing up.
"But listen," said Golden Hair. "There is something very strange about the old woman. They say she can change rabbits into frogs and birds into fish and little boys and girls into whatsoever she chooses."
"Oh, let us go and see her!" again cried sturdy little Blue Eyes.
"Are you not afraid?" asked Golden Hair.
"Oh, no," said Blue Eyes, "she would not do us harm, for she is kind to the squirrels in her garden. Perhaps she will change us into something very lovely. Let us go!"
So the two little girls set out. Hand in hand they traveled up the great hill. There was a curious smoky haze in the air, and the sunshine fell through the haze in long golden rays. The wind stirred the oak boughs, and the acorns dropped to the ground. The golden and red leaves fell at every breath. They rustled beneath the feet of the children as they walked.
The mellow apples hung on the boughs, yellow and russet and red, or fell with sharp thuds to the sod below. Everywhere was the late summer sunshine.
At length, the children passed the brook and the oak grove and the orchard lands and came in sight of the tiny old hut where the witch lived.
In the doorway sat the old woman, and about her, the squirrels played and the flowers bloomed.
"What do you wish?" asked she, looking up kindly at Golden Hair and Blue Eyes.
It was brave little Blue Eyes who spoke, while Golden Hair shyly hung her head until the curls covered her face.
"We have heard," said Blue Eyes, "that you are very wise and very powerful, and can do wonderful things. Is it true that you can change rabbits into frogs and birds into fishes and little boys and girls into whatsoever you wish?"
"And if it were true," said the old woman, quite gently, "what would you like me to do? Do you wish me to change a bird into a fish or a rabbit into a frog?"
"Oh, no," cried Golden Hair, at last looking up. "Indeed we did not come to see that. We came to ask you how we may do much good."
"We would like to become a pleasure and a joy to every one who meets us," said little Blue Eyes.
"Ah," said the old woman, "then you shall indeed have your wish. But first, stay a while and play in my garden. When the sun sets you may set out down the hill."
So all that long golden afternoon the children played in the old woman's wonderful garden. When the sun set she kissed them both and herself led them partway down the hillside.
"You shall have your wish," she said, at parting, "you shall become a pleasure and a joy to everyone who meets you!"
The next morning on the hillside two flowers were found, growing side by side. One was fluffy and soft and yellow as the curls which fell over the cheeks of little Golden Hair. The other blossom was bright and purple and looked bravely and fearlessly out on the world and the sunshine, like the blue eyes of the other little girl.
You may still find the little girls climbing the hills side by side. They bring pleasure and joy to all who meet them.
You may call the sisters little Golden Hair and Blue Eyes, or, if you really wish, you may name them goldenrod and aster.
Phyllis' Field Friends: FLOWER STORIES by Lenore Elizabeth Mulets. (Boston, MA: L. C. PAGE & COMPANY, 1903, 1904).