1454. How fair is a garden amid the trials and passions of existence. ~Benjamin Disraeli

Old-fashioned flowers! I love them all:
The morning-glories on the wall,
The pansies in their patch of shade,
The violets, stolen from a glade,
The bleeding hearts and columbine,
Have long been garden friends of mine;
But memory every summer flocks
About a clump of hollyhocks.
~Edgar A. Guest

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You may have noticed that I’ve been posting lots of photos of hollyhocks lately. Why? There are two reasons: first because they are one of my favorite flowers and secondly because the hollyhock is a flowering plant of such antiquity that it was found at a neanderthal burial site, where it had stood as a silent sentry for eons. And then after the neanderthal era the hollyhock, a member of the mallow family, was grown in religious gardens around churches and monasteries, and hollyhock seeds were included in the cargo on early ships to the Americas.

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So the tall, showy hollyhock has been used in gardens all over the world and for those tens of thousands of years their chalice-like blossoms, when facing upward, have captured and held countless dollops of daylight while captivating mortals and pollinating creatures alike with their winsome ways. The name hollyhock probably resulted when crusaders brought this versatile plant to England. Holy and hoc (mallow) were the terms associated with it at that time. The sturdy plant gained popularity and even became the subject of a 15th-century poem. However, over the years and sadly, at least hereabouts, less and less of them are to be found in gardens, even gardens where they were once considered a staple.

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Those red hollyhocks are at the back of our lot,
and I think they are even taller than 9 feet.

So the tall, showy hollyhock has been used in gardens all over the world and for those tens of thousands of years their chalice-like blossoms, when facing upward, have captured and held countless dollops of daylight while captivating mortals and pollinating creatures alike with their winsome ways. The name hollyhock probably resulted when crusaders brought this versatile plant to England. Holy and hoc (mallow) were the terms associated with it at that time. The sturdy plant gained popularity and even became the subject of a 15th-century poem. However, over the years and sadly, at least hereabouts, less and less of them are to be found in gardens, even gardens where they were once considered a staple. So I’ve been thrilled that the last two years I’ve been having such great luck with growing them. I especially like that they sometimes reach a height of 9 feet or more which means they tower above all else in a garden; also wherever they grow, the flowers attract hummingbirds and butterflies. Miracles are they then? I think so. The first miracle is that all the data needed to replicate this lovely giant and its flowers is stored In something as small as one of my freckles. The next miracle is that for thousands upon thousands and thousands of years the small seeds have not perished nor failed in their purpose. The third miracle is that the Lord ordained pollinators along with the sun, soil, and water, to be faithful guarantors of the hollyhock’s lifeline.

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How could anything be more amazing than that God not only created all that is and devised ingenious ways for everything He made to be replenished, but that he also valued the importance of beauty as well as purpose. The Lord created not just a human body that needs tangible nourishment but also a soul in the physical body that needs to be fed in spiritual ways, a soul that longs for and seeks its beautiful Source.

Life is more than food, and the body more than clothes. -Luke 12:23 ✝

**All photos taken  by Natalie; collages created by Natalie

306. What is there beyond knowing that keeps calling to me? ~Mary Oliver

Go to your bosom:
Knock there,
and ask your heart
what it doth know?
~William Shakespeare

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We run; we stumble; we fall; we get up; and somehow we find the stamina to move on again.  That same scenario plays over and over again in our lives; so what is it that get us back up on our feet willing to do it all over again?

Is it the hope of wealth or at least sufficiently comfortable numbers in our checkbooks and bank accounts to buy whatever we need and/or want?

Is it the hope of owning a nice car, having a roof over our head, finding food in the pantry, or clothes to put on our backs?

Is it being able to travel wherever and whenever we want?

Is it the hope that scientific theories will one day answer the questions that disturb us?

Or it is instead because we seem to know somehow that a divine power much bigger and smarter has set all this in motion for a reason and that He cheers us on in the face of troubling realities and difficulties?

And isn’t it also because His imploring little voice within us encourages us to finish the race set before us because that is what we are really here for?

At some point in time, do we not begin to perceive divine threads in the fabric of life?

Do not these threads in the tapestry gather together enough gladness and joy so we that can find the strength and courage to face trials, disappointments, and defeats?

Isn’t it the perception of these divine threads that keeps us willing to run again, stumble again, to fall again, to get up again, and to move on again even when we are hurting or become disheartened or grow weary?

Do we not come to realize that life is not just an end in itself but instead a preparation for something more, even if the something more is not clearly defined?  And as strange as it may seem, after a while in our heart of hearts do we not become aware of a sense of awe of and growing gratitude for the very “race” that often torments us?

Life just has to be worth more than material gain, more than temporal pleasures, more than the noisy, senseless endurance of the perverse, violent, and/or mundane.  In moments of utter silence and stillness in an emptied mind we can, can’t we, hear that reassuring little voice that calls to us urging us on because all this isn’t some pointless game, a worthless hour upon a harsh stage, “full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”  And does not what our heart “doth know” tell us something of a loving Creator’s sacred purpose.  Don’t we do it because as Marianne Williamson says, “We were born to manifest the glory of God that is within us.”

But I have raised you up for this very purpose, that I might show you my power and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.  ~Exodus 9:16   ✝

**Images via Pinterest