I like to garden. Many people like to garden. In fact, gardening is the fastest growing hobby in North America. And because I like to garden I was sitting in a classroom last week listening to a fellow talk about shrubs and trees. This was particularly devoted of me given that the last half of the class involved an hour long walk outdoors in sub-zero temperatures.
Nonetheless, the discussion veered onto the topic of roses. I like to look at roses. I like to smell roses. But I don't like roses in my garden. Why? Thorns, of course. Why in the world do people purposely put plant material in their garden that hurts them? Roses and other prickly sorts of plants are not to be blamed, however, because as we know, thorns were developed by plants as defensive mechanisms.
This got me to thinking about "prickly" sorts of people. Thoughtless, bitter, even nasty individuals whose world view extends only to the tip of their nose. We all know them, and some of us purposely plant them in our lives. Some people marry thorns - repeatedly. Some people wear thorns to reveal their pain. Some have a great stiff bramble rooted in their hand, foot or heart and they simply need help pulling it out. And some people, like the rose, develop thorns to avoid being eaten up entirely.
And then there are "thorny" situations, those uncomfortable settings that we all steer clear of - when we can. No one in their right mind would dive into a sticker bush (or plant one in their yard), but sometimes we don't realize it until we're sitting there pulling out thorns. But in these circumstances, thorns can be enlightening. Thorns, like demons, can make excellent guidance counselors.
The rose, the fairy hawthorn, the gorse - all beauties with a stinging touch. But energy waits in the thorn bushes of life. Sometimes there is a bite attached to the beautiful things we long for most. History tells us of a young boy kidnapped into Irish slavery. He lived to become a missionary, the patron saint of this month. His thorn held his calling.
Abuse, accident or illness - all are painful thorns that signal destiny is afoot. Surviving the wound of the thorn enables one to help others survive the same - to make use of the unintended gift that the thorn gave when it pierced your life.
As our class concluded, our quite frozen group came upon a small hawthorn tree, its buds just beginning to swell with the splendor of the coming spring. The instructor reached up to point out its rather hefty thorns and noted that there would soon be hawthorn trees bred without thorns. What a shame.