I was thumbing through a catalog today, and on the inner cover, the editor told of moving into a new house last fall and cleaning out the flower beds. A neighbor stopped by when she was nearly done and commented that her discard pile of seeming detritus included the rhizomes of some of the most beautiful peonies on the block. Yanked for discarding. Ugh. I can identify. I did something similar when I moved into an older house fifteen years ago. The yard had been neglected, with straggly Arbor Vitae, matted leaves from several autumns, and a dead Russian Olive tree. It all seemed a total loss. That spring, I pulled dozens of frilly-leaved plants out of the beds, until a straggler escaped to its full flowering. Only then did I realized that I’d been systematically eliminating a mature bed of crimson oriental poppies.
I can feel the master gardeners cringing.
Some of us who deal with the psyche might similarly cringe when we hear someone make a cutting judgment of another, based solely on an observed behavior–and often a fleeting behavior, at that. Carl Jung reminded us to look deeper.
“Life has always seemed to me like a plant that lives on its rhizome. Its true life is invisible, hidden in the rhizome. The part that appears above the ground lasts only a single summer. Then it withers away–an ephemeral apparition. When we think of the unending growth and decay of life and civilizations, we cannot escape the impression of absolute nullity. Yet I have never lost a sense of something that lives and endures underneath the eternal flux. What we see is the blossom, which passes. The rhizome remains.” Memories, Dreams, Reflections.
Be kind to the various flowers of the psyche. Some are beautiful. Some are foul. All ephemeral. Our highest truth and enduring life lies deeper, and sustains through the seasons of life.
. . . and as the tiny, unintended peonies springing up in my brand-new blueberry-bush garden this spring can attest: even when we think we’ve completely pulled out the roots, even a tiny bit of rhizome in good earth promises resurrection.