This is a photo of my azalea, the first and only planting at this house so far. Looks normal and healthy, no? Indeed - until you learn that I took this photo on a day this spring when every other azalea in the neighborhood, the region, and I presume this latitude across the earth, was in full bloom. So I thought of this as an "anti-miracle" - an event directly contrary to the natural order that is unwanted instead of wanted. Producing flowers in the spring is in the azalea's DNA, and it's clearly in THIS azalea's DNA, because here's what it looked like at this time last year, which was the first spring after I planted it:
Prior to this bloom last year, I said at the end of a post, "I hope for magenta." I got it in spades.
(The above shot, by the way, is my phone beating the pants off my actual camera at taking close-ups.)
So what happened this year? It obviously knows how to bloom. And it has grown quite a bit in overall size over the past year. Even this spring I noticed that new leaves had formed all over it. But I've looked in vain for a single flower bud. Stress, some have said, can cause plants to skip a blooming season. But I don't see that my azalea would have undergone any stress that the flower-saturated azaleas in my neighbor's yard right across the street didn't go through.
As I was considering this one day on the way home the thought suddenly occurred to me that maybe God performed this anti-miracle to be a symbol of my own lack of creative production over the last year. It wouldn't be the first time God used a shrub to get the attention of a reluctant follower. Indeed I have experienced even more internal resistance to working on this house and blog over the last 12 months than before. Case in point: my last post here was last March, over a year ago - incidentally (?) just before the azalea bloomed for the first (and so far last) time. Unfortunately this is representative of my extra-curricular creative activity in general.
Part of this is due to the chronic nausea that hasn't changed since I described it here. For some reason, there are only two sorts of things I can do during an episode of nausea - sit down and stare at the TV, or anything that involves standing up and working physically with my hands (washing dishes, cleaning the house, cooking food, etc.). The absolute last thing I can do is sit down and concentrate mentally on creative work like writing or designing. So while I haven't accomplished much in the way of projects for this house or blog, I've marked lots of movies off my "must see" list, my floors are very clean, and I've baked lots of tasty pies! But those aren't marks of success for someone who feels called primarily to produce art and architecture. Ironically I've been very unproductive at doing precisely the work I feel most called to do. Design is in my blood as sure as flowers are in the sap of azaleas. And yet we have produced everything but our most prized fruit.
As I also noted in the post linked above, there are significant periods of time during each week when I don't feel too sick to sit and work. In those times (and when not at my day job) I have most often chosen to do something - anything - other than design. This is what I feel guilty for. I don't feel guilt for not working when I'm nauseous, since I don't think (yet) that I'm at fault for the nausea. But every moment of every day when I'm not nauseous or not at work is an opportunity to choose to do something creative, and I haven't.
Maybe my lack of motivation and will (and inspiration, on top of it all) is from God and he means it to force me to rest awhile before starting the next frenzied few years of creative activity. Or maybe that's just what I tell myself so I can escape responsibility. Honestly, I don't know. Nor do I know if my bloom-less azalea is a critical wake-up call from God or just a statement of fact. Or just a meaningless freak of nature.
But here's a post. I can still create something of my own. And the azalea is still alive in the courtyard. Maybe next year.