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Blooming out of season

Inspiration from an October iris

by Ken Rummer, Presbyterians Today | Special to Presbyterian News Service

“October Iris” (Photo by Ken Rummer)

Along the trail by the creek, maple leaves flash red against the yellows of the ash trees. It’s quite a show — and a confirmation that the chill in the air means business.

Beside the trail, a low retaining wall holds back a strip of cultivated soil. The gardener lives in the townhome up the hill.

Through the summer, I enjoyed checking on what she had blooming there. Also on the wee gnome in the red hat, and the sign by one of the flowers that read, “I don’t remember planting this.”

But recently, approaching her garden, I was startled by irises blooming purple. These were irises that already bloomed back in May, and here they were, flowering again in the last week of October.

I’ve heard reports of similar sightings: lilacs re-flowering, honeysuckle adding new blossoms, spirea taking another swing at spring.

Is it a response to last summer’s drought? A side-effect of an unusually mild autumn? Another marker of a changing climate? An odd thing plants do sometimes?

The plant science voices I consulted offered support for all of the above. But it wasn’t the scientific puzzle that stuck with me. It was the sad joy I felt to see irises blooming in October.

Sad — because in our area a killing frost and the end of the growing season is overdue and surely coming soon. Joy — because the irises are blooming anyway, gorgeous flowers in royal purple.

In 2 Timothy 4:2, the student pastor addressed in the letter is urged to stand ready to preach “in season and out of season.”

I think I’m seeing that in the iris. Out of season, definitely, but blooming for all they’re worth.

And it’s not just plants that have caught my eye with out-of-season flowering.

A few weeks ago, I took part in a 150th celebration for the Platte Center Presbyterian Church in rural Union County, Iowa. If you check out their Facebook page from Oct. 10, you’ll see the crowd that came to mark the occasion. (I’m toward the left near the tree.)

The open-country church with a part-time pastor is down to 20- something in worship. What with bigger farms around them and fewer people per farm, the congregation is not experiencing a favorable growing season.

But they drew 170 to their party. And on the back of the red T- shirts they had printed for the occasion, they noted their mission projects — not past glories, but what they are doing in the present, and it was a long list.

The Rev. Ken Rummer blogs periodically for Presbyterians Today.

That looks like blooming to me, the more remarkable for being out of season.

So now, with a nudge of inspiration from the iris and the Platte faithful, I’m wondering if there is some blooming we can do.

Conditions are not ideal. You know the list of what we’re up against.

But perhaps even now, as God gives us strength, we can pull off some out-of-season blooming. Perhaps, even now, we can dare to open our petals and unfurl our colors against a backdrop of autumn leaves.

The Rev. Ken Rummer writes about life and faith from the middle of Iowa by the High Trestle Trail. Additional posts are available here.

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