To see heaven in a flower

Recently, I moved this  Mary figurine off of the bookshelf and into the kitchen window.

I got the idea to do so from a friend of mine, who has a Madonna and child statue standing in her kitchen window.   I saw that and thought, I need some  Mary in my kitchen, too.   (Not to say that she’d been totally absent; on the fridge is a fabulously kitschy magnet of the Holy Family that I bought in New York’s Little Italy about twelve years ago).   But I felt the need to have Mary displayed a little more prominently, so I added her to the greenhouse window, right in front of the Gurgling Cod pitcher that my Bostonian friend gave me for my wedding shower.

I like this little statue of Mary because she’s smiling into the petals of a rose.   I have kind of a thing for roses, as you might know, so this Mary looks like a true kindred spirit.  And I love the image of a woman pausing in her day to gaze into the depths of a flower, which, if you’ve ever done it, is quite an awe-inspiring experience.  This evening, as I was making dinner and looking at Mary, I found myself remembering a line  from a William Blake poem: “To see a world in a grain of sand, and heaven in a wild flower.”

By putting Mary in the kitchen window, I’d hoped to add a little blessing to the chaos of my kitchen.   There are many, many times that I am in this room and I’m frazzled: mornings when I am hastily slapping together a sandwich before heading out to work; evenings when I am making dinner and assembling the boys’  lunches for the next day, trying to keep track of who eats what; afternoons when I am unloading the dishwasher while keeping one ear cocked to the ominous thumps in the living room, which usually indicate that my sons are doing things like jump from chair to chair in the manner of Arctic  ice floes, a pastime which never ends well.  There are times where being in the kitchen is wonderfully relaxing — weekend mornings, say, when I have time to linger over coffee and admire the sunshine drenching the room — but a lot of the time, when I’m in here, my own stress level is close to boiling and my own mind is as cluttered as the chaotic shelves of my fridge.

Hence the addition of Mary.   If anyone can impart a little calmness to this crazy scene, I figured that she can.

And you know what?  Having her there makes a difference. I’m not going to say that I have become totally serene, or that I don’t still rush around like the cook on Downton Abbey, hastily banging pot lids on the stove.  But in all the rushing, I see Mary and her flower, and I’m reminded that there is something sacred in all of this.  Catching a glimpse of her is like a wordless prayer: she reminds me to breathe, and to remember that I have a faith and a belief system that recognizes the holiness in the everyday.  She is a reminder that all the things I do in the kitchen, even if they are frustrating, stem from the blessings that exist in my life, layer upon layer of them.  Those dirty dishes are proof of enough to eat; the lunchboxes I pack are proof of my boys, whom I love beyond words; the coffee grounds that I wipe up are proof of my husband, coffee-maker extraordinaire and my soulmate to boot.   If I stop and look into my life, I see those blessings, layered as deep as the petals in a rose .. and I’m all the happier for doing so.

That’s why I love having her here, this Mary in the window.  She invites me to see heaven in a wildflower, yes — and she invites me to see heaven in my own kitchen, too.

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