Spring is doing its typical two steps forward and two steps back in Spokane. Snow, sun, rain, and hard freezes are all taking their turns. The plants are in the greenhouse and I'm once again looking hopefully for signs of new life emerging in the garden. I wrote about this annual experience of waiting and paying attention in my book. The excerpt is available to read here. Here's the part that came to mind this week:
As Jesus puts it, consider the lilies, tune into the smallest details that point to the biggest truths: Creation, Creator, Created. It’s probably no coincidence that Jesus chose among the earliest and most tender of spring wildflowers to highlight God’s glorious grace. Lilies put on the most elaborate of displays, breaking the dull drone of winter gray and announcing the certainty of the turning of the seasons. More broadly Jesus is saying consider the glorious springtime. Before you plant and harvest and “make” the world in the heat of summer, remember that the world was made and you are caught up in the drama of the making.
Yellow bell lillies are what I had in mind when I wrote that. They are the earliest spring wildflower in one of my favorite nearby spots but in most places in the Spokane buttercups are the earliest display of spring color, and they are all I've got to work with right now.
I've always found them uninteresting and took their display of waxy yellow petals as a sign that I need to look for the good stuff to emerge, but this year I'm putting my commitment to pay attention to the smallest details to the test. I'm considering the buttercup and I've discovered that they are actually quite fascinating.
There are over 600 species and I've noticed several varieties on recent walks. The most common is Ranunculus glaberimus or sagebrush buttercup. They are so toxic that Indians used them to make poison arrows and spiked meat with their leaves to kill coyotes. Wikipedia notes that there is a legend associated with them in our region:
In the interior of the Pacific Northwest of the United States the buttercup is called "Coyote’s eyes" in Nez Perce. In the legend Coyote was tossing his eyes up in the air and catching them again when Eagle snatched them. Unable to see, Coyote made eyes from the buttercup.
Besides all that they are much more beautiful than I had ever noticed before.
So, as I navigate the fickle weather of spring and the home stretch of Lent I'll consider the buttercups as evidence that new life is approaching at its own pace, and it's not my job to make it happen, rather it comes as a gift freely given, one small detail at a time.