Saturday, April 2, 2016

Things in Bloom

-- by Tom Phillips

A few years ago my pastor wife was visiting an old lady in hospice care, who posed a difficult question. She dreamed that she died, then woke up to find she apparently hadn't.

"How do you know when you're dead?" she asked.  The pastor couldn't answer.  According to the Tibetan Book of the Dead, the most authoritative work on the subject, just as dreamers don't know they're dreaming, the dead don't know they're dead.

So let's take up an easier question.  How do you know when you're in your dotage?

Back in the 1960s, the respected art critic of the New York Times, John Canaday, was nearing the end of his long career.  One day, instead of an art review, he came up with a random article about his favorite Japanese restaurants.  He gave them funny awards, e.g. "Most Japanese Japanese Restaurant," and "Least Japanese Japanese Restaurant."   But my favorite was "Japanese Restaurant with Waitresses Most Resembling Flowers."  Ah, I thought, he's in his dotage.

And now, in mine, I can confirm that the symptoms include a fondness for Japanese restaurants with Japanese waitresses, and a benign obsession with flowers.

These days I take my smartphone/camera out for a morning walk, and click on the flowers that bloom in the spring.  In the category of "Flowers Most Resembling Japanese Waitresses," I would give the nod to magnolia blossoms.

What draws an old man to a spring blossom?

Both of us have but a short time to live.  And we like to live it in carefree beauty.  Jesus said, "Consider the lilies of the field.  They toil not, neither do they spin, yet Solomon in all his glory was never arrayed like one of these."  Like the lilies of the field, we elderly ones have no gainful employment, we live off the land.  And yet, the Chinese say, there is nothing in the world so beautiful as a healthy, wise old man.

As for death, who knows?  We may be there already.  If we're dead, we're grateful for it.

If this is life, we can look at things in bloom.  As the poet said, "About the woodland I will go, to see the cherry hung with snow."

Copyright 2016 by Tom Phillips


  1. Always enjoy reading your latest postings. If this be dotage, may it endure for many more writings.