gardening, spiritual life

Mystery vine

“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” Shakespeare, “Romeo and Juliet”

The morning glory we knew. The mysterious white-flowered vine, not so much.

There was a time when we didn’t even know there was a vine. Our real estate agent, who lived in the same neighborhood, looked out through the kitchen window during the showing that sealed the deal and said, “You wouldn’t want to plant anything the first year. There’s a lot going on out there.”

I loved the house, but I looked out at the bleak, mid-winter emptiness of the backyard and thought, “Sure.”

It turned out she was right. By May, we were in the house and the garden was popping with perennials. Daisies, trumpet vine, hostas, butterfly bush, climbing roses. There was a lot going on — some of which I didn’t even recognize.

Specifically, there was a vine that was trained to cross a trellis that covered the back gate. By July, the trellis was groaning under the vine’s weight. By September, the vine had exploded into thousands of tiny, white flowers that smelled so sweet you would want to stuff your face into the cloud of them were it not full of stinging things.

Years went by. The trellis collapsed. We retrained the vine to the picket fence. Pickets rotted, kept too moist by the vine’s dense winter self. We finally remembered there had been “no” vine when we bought the house and cut it down to the ground in the fall. It came back in full glory the next spring — stretching some 15 feet down the fence before it flowered.

And, on it goes.

We’ve come to know the vine — its need for weekly pruning in the summer and an annual smack down in the fall — and we have reaped its rewards. Not just us: Every late summer, its sheer audacity literally causes passersby to stop and admire.

We knew all about it — except for one thing. It was laziness, really, but, until this week, we never knew its name.

Vine. White flowers. Four petals. That was all it took for the search engines to finally reveal the vine’s full identity. It’s name is “sweet autumn clematis.” Isn’t that, well, sweet? And, yes, it does seem to smell even sweeter now that we fully know it. Shakespeare was wrong.

And, he’s not the only one. How many of us have seen God at work in a sunset, a flower, the flash of a firefly? In a deliverance from sure disaster, in a sudden urge to do something right and good or to not do something that is not?

It’s true. Most people know about God, even to a basic awareness of His ways. But, just as we lived side by side with our mystery vine for years, it is possible to live in God’s world, know His ways and experience His goodness without knowing Him by name.

Perhaps it is time to search for it.

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