I am famous for ignoring "occasions" - birthdays, wedding anniversaries, Mother's Day, and Valentine's Day. Buying gifts for these occasions contributes to their overcommercialization, I hold. My family agrees readily with me, but they go ahead and buy gifts for one another and gifts for me when the occasion calls for it.
My wife, Laura, is kind enough to write, "from Mom and Dad" on the gifts to our daughters that she buys, wraps, and gives.
My neighbor Teri was watering her lawn when I was outside one spring morning. It was before I had started harvesting plants from our yard.
"What did you buy Laura for Mother's Day?" she asked me.
"Nothing," I said. "I don't get into the commercialization of important days. I give gifts whenever I give them, and most of them I make. I don't buy."
Her significant look made me nervous. I remembered that when someone says, "Sure, I understand. Do it your way," it does not necessarily mean that everything will be OK - especially when that person receives gifts from everyone but me.
Teri continued to water her lawn and said quietly, "Don't say I didn't warn you."
My nervousness increased. Even though someone gives me the complete freedom to be who I am, I thought, it's probably not OK to fail to commemorate that person's special occasion with a small gift, at least.
"But a stand for principle means something," I said.
Teri continued watering her lawn. She didn't have anything further to add.
It often takes some small reminder to get me to focus properly on the work I must do. I became acutely aware of the need for me to find a small, meaningful, beautiful gift.
I surveyed the plants growing in our yard. I walked into the house, retrieved a brightly painted cup, and filled it with some water.
I took it outside.
I picked some of the deepest green, most perfectly formed clover, and I arranged sprigs of it in the cup. I decided that we could spare two of our tulips, so I picked them. They stood tall, a beautiful light-yellow background for everything else in the arrangement.
I chose 12 bright-yellow dandelions. Several light-green plants, whose name I don't know, looked like small, dense ferns, and they showed up well against the dark-green clover.
I picked tiny purple flowers, whose name I don't know either. Three of the flowers grew close together on a long stem.
I pushed the stem down into my arrangement so that the three flowers nestled purple against the dark-green clover.
The purple flowers were so small they were almost invisible, but they served to draw my eye to their color and to their intricacies.
These flowers are actually fast-spreading weeds, like the dandelions, and it was a service to my lawn and to my neighbors' lawns to keep them from going to seed by pulling them. But that didn't prevent me from savoring their beauty.
I took the bouquet inside and put it on the kitchen table. When Laura came home, she was very impressed with the arrangement in the bright cup that sat in the center of the kitchen table.
"It's beautiful," she said.
I told her, "I only needed to organize what I was freely given, before I could give it to you to commemorate what I see as not just a commercial day but as an occasion to celebrate a job done well."
On the occasion before that, Valentine's Day, snow had covered all our plants, and I managed to save myself by writing a poem about my love for Laura.
I printed it on a sheet of paper that included photographs of our family. That gift was also well-received.
Laura framed the work and hung it on the wall above her bookcase.
Even if I never learn to plan in a more realistic fashion, I'm sure that I will have more of these adventures that help me stay aware of the generosity of the force for good.