Every March over the past number of years I have planted pansy seedlings in window-boxes on the low wall of my front garden. Throughout spring I love to tend to them, and then watch and wait for them to blossom into fabulous colour over the course of the summer.
Last March, however, things were looking bleak. The first Covid lockdown was sprung on us. Nurseries and garden-centres were suddenly shut. So, I couldn’t buy any seedlings. The weeks dragged on, and all hope of a summer floral burst on my front wall had receded when I recalled a small packet of poppy seeds that had long been skulking in the abyss of my garden shed. After some rummaging, I eventually salvaged the seeds and sowed them in the window-boxes. I was unsure if they would germinate or sprout, but at that stage I was desperate for any bit of excitement in my locked-down life.
It did not take long for the first sprouts to push up through the soil. And as the days passed and the sun grew brighter and warmer, the shoots matured, and buds began to develop that eventually exploded into a panoply of rich crimson flowers all along the wall. Throughout the summer, neighbours constantly stopped me on the street to tell me how much they enjoyed the display and to thank me for bringing colour into their lives during such difficult days. I had never previously received such praise for my pansies. Indeed, I had never previously received ANY praise for my pansies!
If last year had been like any other year, those poppy seeds would still be alive, trapped in a sealed packet in my shed. However, because Covid and lockdown intruded into our world, those seeds died last spring to produce a magnificent and memorable crop – dare I say, the horticultural sensation of the street!
The past year has been a very difficult time for all us. Some have been tragically affected through illness or the loss of loved ones. Some have suffered mental health issues. Some feel that life has become stagnant and opportunities are passing by. Some feel that relationships and friendships are not being adequately nourished. And almost all of us are fed up with the whole thing. It is as if small, or indeed large, parts of our own lives are dying.
Perhaps in the midst of this suffering we can draw some comfort from today’s Gospel which tells us that the seed must die to produce much fruit. Maybe the lockdown is presenting me with the space for a previously uncultivated part of my life to flourish. Space to slow down, read more, spend quality time with my immediate family, become more comfortable with myself, reflect…
Maybe we can find hope that our own seeds that are dying in this “new normal” will, with patience, produce a bumper personal crop?