Yesterday we planted a Rising Sun Redbud in our backyard. It’s the first big purchase we’ve placed in the yard, and it felt momentous for that reason. The first chess move in a long-game strategy my mother (the resident gardening genius) has mapped out on graph paper.
The name of the tree must stem from its delicate yellow buds. The new leaves will grow into a vibrant lime green, but they first rise yellow. In their newness, curled like unfurling butterfly wings, the leaves are so delicate they’re slightly translucent. If this were all its beauty, it would be enough, but it’s not. Pink blooms of variegated rose and blush clothe its arms. Its adult leaves will be shaped like hearts. At the nursery, an older lady stopped by us as we dollied the tree to the front. She looked over it with amazement and a breathy, “what is that?” It’s just that pretty.
Evergreens are the only other trees we have planned for the backyard. We nearly got one yesterday. But, with a list of house projects riddled with surprises, as they always are, we could just do one tree this year. (Actually, I was rather pressing things with the one.)
It’s been a hard year. Sorrow is still clogging our throats, and we’re still finding ghosts at the grocery store, faces we cannot forget. So maybe the evergreen would have been the safer choice. Its thick green needles will weather the winter with poise; it’s a calming presence when all else temporarily dies. But I couldn’t say no to the Rising Sun. It’s a wild, new-morning mercy to look out at it in the yard, fleeting as its beauty is from a twelve-month perspective. Today it is lovely. Tomorrow it will be, too. Soon, it will sleep - but that is not forever - and the eternal clock will strike its golden hour again.
I am learning that it is okay to mourn much longer than others are comfortable seeing us mourn. For a culture uncomfortable with death, it’s a hard topic to keep talking about. I am, though, because we have to pass through this discomfort to find peace. Peace in Christ is not gained by going around these topics. Like Maria says in the Sound of Music, “You can’t use school to escape your problems. You have to face them.” Escapism is a sorry jaunt from the fear of death. We have to press in. And, when we are welcomed into the house of mourning, with its ample blankets and heavy shades, we’re invited to stay awhile. This is a tender kind of abiding in Christ if we let it be, where comfort sidles up to discomfort, and the sharp edges of our lives are thrust against each other.
This is the space where resurrection can find a better footing in our faith. The belief that Jesus died and raised. What does this rising mean for our joy and hope when we start to rub shoulders with death? When we realize, in fact, that this liminal life is not promised, and, at its best, is not around for all that long. What, Death? What temporary victory can you parade around? The Son has risen already, given death its unceremonious kick and risen past the stars. This is just the beginning; we who believe will be raised as well. So I stand by my decision for the Rising Sun. It must sleep, it’s true. But friends, it must also wake.
I wrote this piece nearly a year ago, but never got around to finetuning or publishing it. All winter long I’ve worried my Redbud wouldn’t make it through. My pregnant self didn’t water it like I should have. But here, at last – there are tiny pink buds all over the branches proving me wonderfully wrong. I love it. I love it.