Friday, August 24, 2012

Outside: Fern

“Ferns in general may be thought of as largely being specialists in marginal habitats, often succeeding in places where various environmental factors limit the success of flowering plants.”
—“Fern,” Wikipedia

Tell me about things that thrive in the shade. Things that were made not for bright light, but for cool, dappled places. That take scarcity and turn it into a profusion of green lace.

Tell me about the things that thrive off what seems like not enough. The things that take too-cold, too-dry, too-dark, and blanket them with improbable beauty.

Tell me about tender things that surprise you with their strength.

Here—I will tell you a story, too:

My grandmother, the one I never knew, was a mother and a musician and a teacher and an artist. A queenly woman. She died of pneumonia during a flu outbreak when she was only in her forties, after a lifetime of struggling with severe allergies and asthma. I have always thought of her as strong in heart, weak in body. It recently struck me, though, that a woman who survived her birth only because the neighbor lady sucked the fluid from her lungs to get her breathing, who most likely survived two bouts of tuberculosis, who struggled to breathe off and on all her life, with very little of the medical intervention available now—that woman must have been incredibly strong, period. And from everything I know about her, she lived abundantly.

Does it make sense when I tell you that I feel her legacy as keenly as that of the grandmother I knew most of my life, who lived to be 97? Neither one has seen the end of her influence.

Tell me about those things—and those people—made just for their specific time and place—the ones who blanket their world the way ferns blanket the forest floor, delicate and strong, graceful and bountiful, soaking up every last bit of light.

More in this series:     Moth, Birch, Turtle Hunting

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