We have entered the season of Lent, a 40 day period in which people journey with Jesus and Mary Magdalene in the way of sacred compassion. This sacred compassion opens our hearts to others, especially those who have been marginalized, exploited and discriminated against.
Our word Lent comes from a word meaning “lengthen,” probably referring to nature’s lengthening of the daylight hours in this season. Days are longer as we move from life to death to regeneration, and in so doing we touch the wounds that emerge along the journey. We remember that we are elemental creatures, part of the earth, and we pray for strength for the journey and seek healing for the Web of Life.
One of my favorite meditative walks this time of year is among the exquisite stands of magnolia trees blooming in the San Francisco Botanical Garden and scattered throughout the Golden Gate Park. The map supplied upon entering Strybing Arboretum will point the way to 25 different species of these magnificent trees.
The unfolding magnolia blossoms resemble the Sufi dance of the whirling dervishes who often clothe themselves in flowing white robes and red conical headgear. Sufi dance essentially rotates about its own axis, and through this movement the dancers experience alternate states of consciousness and mystical ecstasy. Like the heart of the magnolia bloom, the Sufi soul seems to emerge from earthly ties to enter the realm of the divine.
Pink is one of the common colors for magnolia blossoms. The shade of pink will vary from tree to tree – the flowers may be pale pink to bright fuchsia. But even more common than pink are white or cream-colored flowers. These flowers will range in color from pure, stark white to an almost yellow-toned cream. Like all magnolia blossoms, white and cream-colored blossoms are highly fragrant.
Let us dance with the magnolias and the whirling dervishes for global protection of the marginalized and of Mother Earth herself upon whom we often walk with little respect or understanding of the devastation of our footprints!
The magnolias are also a symbol of hope for us because they are an old species that has survived many geological changes such as mountain formations, ice ages and perhaps whirling dancing dinosaurs. There are now nearly 250 species of magnolia around the world. Although their origins are rooted in Asia there are some 50 species native to the Americas. Six new world beauties are in our own park!
As we walk among the magnificent magnolias or through the tent camps of the homeless we enter the realm of the divine. Therein let us pray for strength for the journey and healing for the Web of Life.