Oasis in bloom

In a southern California radiant with blooming, the dried-out, almost ashen, bush on a vacant lot brought me to a halt. Even our more than generous rains during the winter season had failed to nourish it, and as I drew closer I understood why. It was the kind of growth, fat with blossoms, that one sees in Hawaii, where rains are a part of daily life. I recognized the tightly furled slender white buds at the top of three brittle branches. One finds them on each pillow of a bed in a Hawaiian hotel, after the maid has turned the covers down.

With the same instinct that causes one to bend to a lost and hungry kitten, I snapped the three stems from the hopeless mass of foliage and took them with me, waking quickly, to a restaurant where I was meeting someone for lunch. The waiter supplied a glass of water to keep the branches alive.

While we settled down for lunch and conversation, I had forgotten, briefly, about the branches, but when I turned my head it was to see, with delight, that two of the buds had opened fully in that short interval! But there was an element of sadness, too, for instead of chatting and eating, if I had only set the glass before me I would have seen them opening!m

The third bud was still tightly furled.

Hurrying home with my little bouquet, I put it in water again, this time in a squat, brown, clay bowl, and did something I had never done before. I put the bowl on a table, sat in a chair facing it, determined, wanting so much to see the third bud open before my eyes.m

My life these days has wound me up like a coiled spring. Everything is hurry. So much to do, so fleeting the hours to do what has to be done -- to take time to watch a bud open, in its own good time, a luxury. But I did it!

I did it! Finding the tension slipping away from my shoulders, noticing how my hands relaxed in my lap, I contemplated the white bud, and waited. As if come to an oasis.

Then, I saw it. The tiny, white petal moving away from its sheath, slanting away, and then I, of the not too acute hearing, heard it,m as it leaned away with a "plop."

One by one the petals unfoled, revealing a satiny point of gold rising from a rib of golden velvet deeper inside the throat of the flower. Sitting there in my oasis, I watch as the inner flower, purple and white, tiny, exquisite, positioned itself perfectly, according to a blueprint, a plan, that never ceases to bring wonder to the mind.

The lifetime of these little "orchids" is brief. In a 24-hour period they are ready to fold themselves back into themselves. Again I have taken time to see them do this. In a few hours the bowl will be empty. But it will be full.

And I will be full of a serenity that will last me far beyond the lif e of a tiny flower.

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