This morning, just before we left for Z’s therapy sessions, I noticed the okra plant budding two flowers. This time I was ready, and I hoped the camera’s battery is not exhausted. It wasn’t! Just as I had expected, by the time we were back home, the flowers buds had blossomed! Just beautiful!
It’s interesting how the flower stage of an okra plant is so fleeting. In a length of a few hours, it goes through the stage of budding, flowering, and falling off. Subhanallah! If you think about it, the flower stage for most fruit producing plants don’t last that long. That is food for thought for us. Our prime stage in life doesn’t last that long. In surah Yaseen, Allah talks about the stages of the moon.
And the moon – We have determined for it phases, until it returns [appearing] like the old date stalk. [Yaseen 36:39]
In Sheikh Abdulnasir’s Quran for Family Yaseen class, he talked about how when we look at the sky every night, it is reminder of our life phases, and how life is so fleeting. You go from one stage to the next, and time passes by so quickly. Yet, how we are deluded despite this knowledge, and we think we are invincible. We like to think we can stall death. At this age in my life, I can attest to that. I grew a little panicky over some symptoms of aging. While I do somewhat do a morbid take on it, I also long for my youth. But, really, our life passes by us so rapidly, and pondering over this okra plant really hits home for me.
My favorite season is spring. I love it when the air smells like fresh bulbs and flowers. I love the pastel colors on the trees and on the ground as the petals fall, creating a soft colorful carpet of sweet smelling blossoms. It makes me think of Jannah. It even inspired a poem I had written about Jannah. However, I always wish the flowers would stay longer on the trees though. Before you know it, all the flowers are gone and the trees are completely green, and they stay green all throughout summer. The colors you see now are from the annuals. I love those annuals, but I do love the pastel spring colors better. They somehow lend a softer atmosphere after the frigid cold of winter.
Like those spring blossoms, these okra flowers don’t last that long. I was thinking the other day about how the life cycle of plant is so much like our life cycle. We also go through the seedling stage, and each of us are different, just like different plants need different types of care. Some need support early on, some are hardier. As they grow, they take on different external looks, just like humans also do. Some survive, some don’t. Some get heavily infested by pests and recover, some are stunted. When they get to the bud stage, this is like our adolescence going into the young adult life phase. This is the stage where the plant gets the most oohs and aahs. This is when they are the most admired and looked at. This is their prime so to say. This is when they emit fragrance.
But soon, this stage passes, and those beautiful petals that are so admired, begin to wither and fall off. More important events are taking place inside. The enjoyment phase has to give way for this important stage to occur; the fruit stage. The fruit grows and grows, and now, the plant is no longer adorned with flowers. Some of the withered petals may still be clinging on, signifying a once beautiful past of glory and beauty. Every mother should be able to relate to this stage. This is when a newly married woman gets pregnant. The henna design has faded away, and that ‘just married’ atmosphere has given way to more serious business of adjusting to living with a life-long partner. This is when the nitty gritty of marriage becomes a reality. It is still a beautiful thing. Don’t get me wrong, but there are more important reasons for marriage.
As the fruit emerges, the plant now serves a more productive and beneficial function. We begin to look at it in a new light. We look at it for what it produces, not at what it shows off. The fruit itself is a beauty to behold, much like the flower, but it embodies something more; a continuation of generations. In human terms, this is how we view children too; a continuation of our legacy and lineage. We want to see them thrive and ripen. They can’t be picked prematurely. You want to protect them from pests too, just like you were protected from being infested at the seedling stage. And when they are ready, they will either be picked or will fall off, ready to venture out in the world and make their own decisions.
Those fruits now contain the seeds for the future generation. You have done all you could, and the rest is up to … Allah.
Life is not about you. It’s about something bigger. The world doesn’t revolve around you. Allah has created life for a more important purpose. We need to zoom out and look at the bigger picture. Allah has placed signs and reminders all around us. Allah has given us all intellect for us to use. Those neurons that we have been blessed with, are supposed to spark and make these connections. Connections that eventually light up a clear brightly lit path of a conclusion that there is a Creator, and that this Creator is the One who not only creates, but also owns, sustains and has the ultimate authority. How can we be so full of ourselves then?
I had just taken these photos of the closed up okra flowers. I called Z to come look. I asked him,
“What’s going to happen to these flowers after this?”
“They’re going to fall.”
“Then what’s going to come out?” I asked.
“I don’t know, ” he replied.
I pointed to the fat okra that is just ready to be picked.
“What’s this?” I asked.
“I don’t know. “
“Do you know what this is? Do we eat this?”
“Yes. I forgot what it’s called,” he said.
“Oh! Yes! Okra.”
Subhanallah. I didn’t want to plant a garden this year, but H and N insisted, offering to dilligently water it everyday. So that’s how we ended up with a container vegetable garden this year. I’ve always been bad at gardening. The plants always seem to die. But this year, it’s different. My eggplant plant was almost gone. Something seemed to be eating its leaves. I poured diluted dishwashing detergent on it and now it’s thriving. Everyday, as I went out to look at the plants, it struck me as it never has before, that it is Allah, the Rabb, who is taking care of these plants. Not me. I’m only a tool through which their sustenance is given. Just like our employers are the tools through which our financial sustenance are given. Our employers are not the ones who are providing us income. Allah is. There is lesson of tawakkul and gratitude in this. I never thought I’d get that lesson from gardening. Subhanallah. Subhanallah.