Sunday, December 24, 2017

Life, Death, Hope and Joy

-- Susan, every other Sunday

It's an honor to be the MIE blogger who holds the field on Christmas Eve, and I spent some time considering what angle to take on this holiday post. I'm in Tokyo at the moment, and the Japanese love of all things culturally Christmas offers fertile ground for yuletide blogs, from the Bavarian Christmas markets:

Tokyo Christmas Market

To the forest of magical Christmas trees that spring up around the city:

A 20' tree composed entirely of living flowers. Because Japan.

I also considered blogging about the amazing desserts -- for which Tokyo is famous at any time of year.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY! (Hopefully some of you are old enough to get the reference...)

But sometimes, the post picks the author instead of the other way around. This afternoon, while walking through the inner garden at Meiji Shrine, a different post chose me.

Winter in the inner garden, Meiji Shrine

Meiji Shrine is famous for its iris garden, which features over a hundred different varieties of iris. In May, visitors come from all over Japan (and other countries also) to view the lovely blooms.

This is a photograph of the iris beds I took today:

World famous flowers. But you'll have to take my word for it.

In winter, they look more like a cemetery than a world-famous garden. The labels identifying the blooms stand guard above the barren earth like tombstones over the flowers' graves.

Gravestones - er, markers - identifying the irises.

And yet, as I stood there in the freezing wind, I saw something more valuable than flowers, more encouraging than death.

I saw faith, hope, and patience: the very things we celebrate--and anticipate--at Christmas time.

The newly-tilled earth revealed the gardeners' belief that, in due time, the flowers would return. They churn the ground in hopes of easing the passage of the tender shoots.

Newly-turned earth around each flower's bed.

They wait, with patience, for the warmth of spring to chase away winter's chill, and for the warmth that will encourage these precious plants to grow again.

Japanese irises in spring.
At its heart, Christmas is the same. Those of us who celebrate it do enjoy the trees and cakes and presents. If we're fortunate, we feast and make merry with the ones we love. But there's more to this celebration. Beneath the sparkling decorations, twinkling lights, and Christmas cheer we find a deeper message--one that shares a root with other faiths' and cultures' celebrations that take place this time of year:

From darkness, light. From death, new life . . . for those with the patience to wait and to believe.

The message of the iris beds transcends religion and belief. It speaks to a deeper truth embedded in the fabric of the world: hope can survive in even the most barren of times and places, if people have the faith to maintain it and the patience to see it through.

Whatever (and whether) you celebrate, my wish for you, this Christmas Eve, is that you have health, happiness, and joy in the year to come--and hope and faith sufficient to sustain them for many years to come.


  1. Perfect, Susan. But then I knew that about you. We will see the spring! I hope we can see it together.

    1. Thank you :) And yes, we will see it together - in Japan!

  2. The turning of the wheel: the only thing that never changes. Lovely post, Susan.

    1. Thank you Everett - Happy Holidays to you and yours, and I hope you have a wonderful 2018.

  3. Beautifully written by a beautiful soul. All the very best to you and yours in 2018 and far, far beyond!

    1. Thank you Jeff! And I wish the same for you, Barbara, and all of your family in the coming year(s)