The roses that bloomed profusely this summer faded long ago, and in their place is a bounty of red rose hips. A friend, Hannah, and I found them a week ago while we were hiking on a logging trail on forest service land. I immediately started making plans to harvest some, which Anna and I did yesterday afternoon.
Rose hips, if you didn’t know this already, are the fruit of the rose plant. The hips are edible, but not raw–they have large seeds and a hairy pulp that need to be removed before the fruit can be consumed. But they can be made into jelly, or dried for use in teas. I’ve never harvested them before, since wild roses weren’t profuse enough in Illinois for any sort of meaningful gathering. Like with any small fruit, it takes a lot of plant to produce enough to logically and practically harvest from it!
But here, wild roses grow with abandon, as do raspberries, sunflowers, and any other number of wildflowers which lavish their abundant color and life onto an otherwise often hash landscape. There is a beautiful paradox in the presence of a fragile flower beneath the shadow of a towering granite peak. The delicacy of a flower or the perfection of its fruit highlight the grandeur and power of towering peaks and granite spires, just as their magnificence highlights the delicate beauty and diminutive intricacy of the wildflowers. Can they really belong to the same world? Yes, and the same God created them all! What goodness.
Anna and I spent two hours out on that forest service trail. A lot of it we spent walking, but the weather was perfect and the 5:00 sun soon hid itself behind trees and hills. We found one particularly good patch of rose hips, and gleaned from there for quite some time before moving on. Next summer, I’ll have to remember that rose hips come into season earlier. There were a few places where the rose hips were much overripe, considerably past pickable ripeness. Notes for next year. But we ended up with enough hips to make some jelly (I’m thinking rose-rhubarb sounds good…) and dry some for tea. Not as much as we’d like, but enough for the first year.
Birch and aspen trees have been catching my eye lately, and more yesterday, it would seem. There is something haunting and sylph-like about their white trunks and branching limbs, more noticeable against a backdrop of ponderosa pine and grey granite than perhaps they would be otherwise. Perhaps it is C.S. Lewis’ references to birch trees and dryads in his wonderful Narnia series that have haunted my imagination and still do. They’ve always seemed different to me, otherworldly, enchanted. Along the forest service road, they clustered in hollows and lined meadowland, stark and beautiful and dreamlike.
Little things can be so profound–The gentle cup of a harebell, or the golden glow of a head of grass. Profound and captivating, if you let yourself look hard enough and without any other expectation than to see something beautiful. How common a harebell is! How common a head of grass is! Yet how uncommon, how wonderful, how full of meaning. And how temporal, how fragile, how short-lived, soon to be struck away by the first hard frosts and the winter snow.
What a joy it is to have the sense of sight, the sense of smell, of touch, taste, of perception, the ability to recognize color, the permission to experience the joys of this world. Sometimes we go so quickly through life that we miss much, we miss the meaning in a harebell, or in ripe and golden grass. We miss the meaning in a towering peak, or in the racing openness of a prairie, open to the skyline. We look right past everything, missing those gifts that God has given us, the gifts we never had to work for, the gifts that demand nothing of us except the expectation of joy.
Some gifts we do have to work for, and those give even greater pleasure. One of those would be the joy of family, whether it be spiritual family or earthly. Yesterday, I got to experience some of the joy that comes from earthly family, the joy of cultivating healthy and loving relationships before God. I’ve got some pretty wonderful sisters. And hopefully they’ll help me with the rose-rhubarb jelly.