This morning, just before we left for Z’s therapy sessions, I noticed the okra plant had two flower buds.
I have been waiting for this, because last time, I couldn’t capture the experience on camera. This time I was ready, and I hoped the camera’s battery is not exhausted. It wasn’t! Just as I had expected, by the time we came back from Z’s therapy, the flowers buds had blossomed! Just beautiful!
It’s interesting how the flower stage of an okra plant is so transient. In a length of a few hours, before the day ends, it has gone through the stage of budding, flowering, and falling off. However, if you think about it, the flower stage for most fruit producing plants don’t last that long. That is food for thought. Our prime stage in life doesn’t last that long. In other words, our years of glory are only temporary. In surah Yaseen, Allah talks about the stages of the moon.
And the moon – We have determined for it phases, until it returns [appearing] like the old date stalk. [Yaseen 36:39]
In Sheikh Abdulnasir’s Quran for Family Yaseen class, he talked about how when we look at the sky every night, it is reminder of our life phases, and how life is so fleeting. You go from one stage to the next, and time passes by so quickly. Yet, how we are deluded despite this knowledge. We think we are invincible. We like to think we can stall death, or at least, we don’t like to think about it. At this stage in my life, I can attest to that. I balked over a few grey hairs. It hit me then that I’m truly aging. People laugh when I say that, but seriously, we all are aging, whether it shows or not. Our life passes by us so rapidly, and pondering over this okra plant really did it for me.
I love spring. It’s my favorite season. I love it when you wake up in the morning, open the windows and inhale the fresh fragrance of spring blossoms on the crab apple tree across the street. There is a feeling of excitement tempered by the soft pastel hues that seem to color the world around you. The sight that greets you outside is one that speaks of hope, beauty, and life. I love how the blossoms even adorn the ground as the spring breeze gently coax the petals off the trees, and slowly but surely, they float and fall thus creating a soft carpet of pink and white. It makes me think of Jannah.
Even though I love the gentle spring breeze, I always wish the blooms would remain longer on the trees. They emit such a wonderful fragrance, and they induce a feeling of joy and happiness I cannot describe. But, before you know it, all the spring blossoms are on the ground, and before long, the trees are completely green, and they stay green all throughout summer. The dominating colors you see from now on are from the annuals, on the ground. I love those bright and strong colored annuals, but the pastel of spring blooms give me a feeling of tranquility.
Like those spring blossoms, these okra flowers, beautiful as they are, don’t last that long. I was thinking the other day about how the life cycle of plant is so much like our life cycle. We also go through the seedling stage. Each of us are different, needing different parenting approaches, just like different plants need different types of care. Some need support early on, some are hardier and can be left alone from an early age. As they grow, they take on different external looks, just like we obviously do. And as they grow, some survive, some don’t. Some get heavily infested by pests and recover, some are stunted.
When they get to the bud stage, this is akin to our adolescence/young adult phase. This is the phase where the plant gets the most oohs and aahs. This is when they are the most admired and looked at. This is when they get attention when they are generally ignored otherwise. This is when they emit beautiful fragrance. They are in their prime.
But soon, this stage passes, and those beautiful petals that are so admired, begin to wither and fall off. More important events are taking place inside. The enjoyment phase has to give way for this important stage to occur; the fruit stage. The fruit grows and grows, and now, the plant is no longer adorned with flowers. Some of the withered petals may still be clinging on, reminding us of a once beautiful past of glory and beauty. Every mother should be able to relate to this stage. This is when a newly married woman gets pregnant. The henna design has faded away, and that ‘just married’ atmosphere has given way to more serious business of adjusting to living with a life-long partner. This is when the reality of married life kicks in. It is still a beautiful thing, don’t get me wrong, but let’s just say the honeymoon’s over.
As the fruit emerges, the plant now serves a more productive and beneficial function. We begin to look at it in a new light. We look at it for what it produces, not for what it shows off. The fruit itself is a beauty to behold, much like the flower, but it embodies something more; a continuation of the current generation. In human terms, this is how we view children too; a continuation of our legacy and lineage. We want to see them thrive and ripen. They can’t be picked prematurely. You want to protect them from pests too, just like you were protected from being infested at the seedling stage. And when they are ready, they will either be picked or fall off, ready to venture out into the world and make their own decisions and mistakes.
Those fruits now contain the seeds for the future generation. Those children you have raised, now are raising their own children. You have done all you could, and the rest is up to … Allah.
Life is not about you. It’s about something bigger. The world doesn’t revolve around you. Allah has created life for a more important purpose; His worship. We need to zoom out and look at the bigger picture. Allah has placed signs and reminders all around us. Allah has given us all intellect for us to use. Those neurons that we have been blessed with, are supposed to spark and make these connections. Connections that eventually light up a clear brightly lit path of a conclusion that there is a Creator, and that this Creator is the One who not only creates, but also owns, sustains, and has the ultimate authority. How can we be so full of ourselves then?
I didn’t want to plant a garden this year, but H and N insisted, offering to dilligently water it everyday. They made their case, saying that we should have a vegetable garden, instead of a flower garden. After sealing in their promise to water the plants everyday, I relented. So that’s how we ended up with a container vegetable garden this year. I’ve always been horrible at gardening. The plants always seem to die either from lack of water or from heavy infestation. I find that I don’t have the patience to treat those infestations.
But this year, something’s different. My eggplant plant was almost gone at the seedling stage. Something seemed to be devouring its leaves. At one point, there was almost no leaves left! I wondered how it would continue on, with its food center destroyed. Since I have never planted an eggplant plant before, I thought I’d love to see it come to fruition, so I poured diluted dishwashing detergent on it and that seemed to have stopped whatever it was that was having a feast on it. By the Mercy of Allah, the plant is now thriving.
By and by, as I went out to check on the plants on a daily basis, it struck me. It is Allah, the Rabb, who is taking care of these plants. Not me. I’m only a tool through which their sustenance is given. Just like our employers are the tools through which our financial sustenance are given. Our employers are not the ones who are providing us income. Allah is. There is also lesson of tawakkul and gratitude in this.
I marvel at how these plants have grown. There were some days where the kids forgot to water them, and just as I was about to tell them to water them, I heard thunder. No need. Allah will water them. I wonder at how Allah has spared them from being infested by garden pests. N found what turned out to be lacewings on the okra plant. Turns out, lacewings are one of those beneficial garden bugs, as they prey on aphids which are garden pests. Those plants out there are at the mercy of being infested and eaten. Some of our carrot leaves were eaten, we don’t know by what, but maybe birds. Yet, when Allah chooses to let a plant thrive and fruit, it thrives and fruits. The girls found a tomato hornworm by one of the pots months back. After some googling, they found out that it eats tomato plants.
Nothing happens randomly. Allah decreed that the girls stumble upon that tomato hornworm thus sparing the cherry tomato plant from being devoured. Our cherry tomato is just not part of the rizq of that tomato hornworm. When any of our things are lost or broken, Allah has taken it back. It was maybe part of our rizq, but no longer. Nothing belongs to us. Yet we act as if everything belongs to us. We act as if everything is a privilege and our right. Subhanallah.
I never thought gardening would give me this much food for thought, even if it is a vegetable garden.