Saintpaullia – In Praise of African Violets
After Walter von Saint Paul – Illaires
“Old friends take your places, move us with your stance of awe, snare us with your gaze.” - Pat Mora
“…the residue of awe which modern life has not (yet) erased, a sensitivity to the realms of life which are not yet corralled by dogma.” - Barry Lopez
It’s Sunday. Instead of church, I read poetry, stories of saints, and ponder St. Paul.
Not Minnesota or the Apostle, but St. Paul, an African violet – Saintpaullia.
This lustful, irreverent plant is blooming, beaming as if resurrected
right here in the low morning light of our dining room.
The Apostle was beheaded in the year sixty-seven after his second imprisonment by the Romans. The violet was deadheaded in August to begin the bloom again.
The Apostle was sent forth by Christ with a story, a message, a desire.
I desire more than green and purple cabbage in morning frost.
I desire more than delicate hollyhock seed pods in frozen shine.
I desire more than low sun blaring in west windows.
I desire more than the raw ambition of my immigrant heritage.
I desire more than the need, to survive not die.
I desire the strength to live on a rocky face in the cloud forest of Africa
like this saint - Saintpaullia.
From where in Africa do the violets come?
Tanzania and Kenya, I hear, but maybe these came by ships, carefully nurtured
by botanists at the Royal Botanical Gardens at Kew.
I am in awe of hummingbird’s torpor state.
I am in awe of galaxies, endless space.
I am in awe of bacteria, its ability to destroy.
I am in awe of tenacity.
I am in awe of neurological systems, chi,
life force, electricity, tall tales told to muscles by our brains.
I am in awe of frost. Look, carefully, it is beautiful.
alk delicately, you might fall. I am in awe of fire,
its ability to lure cats into a seductive trance.
I am awe of skin, a coating of cells that protects us,
a farm of microscopic life. I am in awe of glass,
sand made solid. I am in awe of apples and pears.
I am in awe of onions’ power to heal
the many layers of shedding skin.
I am in awe of this Saintpaullia
that grows as if all life depended upon it.