I've discovered I'm more of a gardener than I am a florist.
On a recent Saturday, members of my congregation and members of our larger community gathered in the morning to pick daffodil blossoms and to build our 40-foot cross on the lawn beneath our church building. It's a tradition that goes back over 60 years.
Back then, one of our members, Pauline Stanley, came up with the idea of making good use of the bright yellow blossoms that ordinarily were thrown away.
Workers help design the cross at the Presbyterian Church in Clatsop Plains.I'm told by old-timers that once much of the Clatsop Plains was under cultivation to daffodils, primarily for the bulbs. The flower was picked in order to give the bulbs the maximum amount of nutrition. Apparently the flowers without the stem were not of much use or interest to anyone back then, until Pauline suggested they be used to decorate a large cross on the church lawn for the entire Clatsop world to view as they drove by during the Easter season.
It was an idea that caught on and has been carried on by several generations of church and community members. Pauline handed the tradition down to her daughter, Colleen, and she handed it down to her children. Pauline's great grand-daughter, Mindy, was there last week with her children to build it this year. As farmland was sold for other uses, it became more difficult for the Clatsop Plains church to locate blossoms, so they began to grow their own. Nowadays it's a toss-up whether the bulbs are more in demand or the flowers; both are popular with residents and visitors alike, and both are available at roadside stands that frequent highway 101 and connecting streets.
We gathered last Saturday morning, despite the rain, to pick the remaining blossoms. I have been doing this for several years now, and though I am no expert, I do have what is a valued asset among the older generation of pickers - a strong back. But after a couple of hours of picking even I looked with envy at bright-eyed Mindy and her young family as they moved among the rows with ease and agility, filling the five-gallon buckets with ingredients for the cross-building.
I was taught by my seniors that all blossoms must be picked to insure the health of the bulbs. The fresh, brightly colored ones were to go in my bucket and the wilted and hail-torn ones were to be dropped on the ground to return their nutrients eventually to the sandy earth. I went about my task with determination, trying to move efficiently yet carefully. But I found it more satisfying to clean the stalks of all flowers than to decide which ones to save and which to drop to the ground. Those decisions are difficult for me.
There were people in rows alongside me who were zealous pickers, but who were not very selective about what went into their bucket. There were others who were perhaps more selective than I but who left all inferior blossoms on the stem as they swiftly moved along. Frequently I noticed these latter folks were also among the very special people who arranged the flowers within the carefully drawn borders of the cross. In this task they were both patient and skillful, selecting and arranging the brightest and healthiest blooms for the top layer, with their cups up to catch the rain and perhaps to preserve them longer.
I remained in the fields. Most others busied themselves as skilled florists or stood - coffee cup in hand - offering well intended advice. I enjoyed the relative solitude, but I also liked being with the living plants, cleaning off the remaining blooms that were now beyond their biological purpose and deciding which bulbs needed to be dug up and placed elsewhere. I smiled at my own feelings.
I could not help but to remember what the Apostle once said to the Corinthian Christians: "I planted the seeds, Apollos watered them, but God made them sprout and grow. What matters isn't those who planted or watered, but God who made the plants grow. The one who plants is just as important as the one who waters. And each one will be paid for what they do. Apollo and I work together for God, and you are God's garden and God's building" (1 Corinthians 3:6-9).
Doug Rich is the pastor of Pioneer Presbyterian Church in Clatsop Plains in Warrenton.