Sunday, April 07, 2013

More Easter Plants

Weather: Afternoons in the 70s; last rain 3/09/13; 12:51 hours of daylight today.

What’s blooming in the area: Bradford pear, peach, crab apples, forsythia.

Beyond the walls and fences: Siberian elm, alfilerillo, western stickseed, dandelions. White sweet clover coming up. Sandbar willow losing its redness.

In my yard: Sand cherry, puschkinia. Buds emerging on lilacs. Spirea, ladybells, yellow yarrow leafing. Peony, Maltese cross breaking ground.

What’s blooming inside: Zonal geraniums, petunia.

Animal sightings: Robin in cottonwood, bees around peach, ladybug, harvester and smaller ants.

Weekly update: The Puritans in England signified their break with the Roman Catholic church by eschewing all decorative arts and symbols associated with church buildings. A plain meeting house was their ideal.

John Wesley broke with the Calvinists, not over aesthetics, but predestination which limited possible converts to those already saved. When predestination no longer defined the saved, then community opinion based on how one comported oneself, those who lived as if they were saved, prevailed.

Methodist church exterior architecture in this country has no theological underpinning. Governing boards aren’t interested in symbolizing their beliefs in God, but in affirming their positions in local societies as representatives of the most godly. Whatever is considered good taste by the elite must be used as the most appropriate.

When they were building their first institutions here in Española, contemporary Eastern mores meant a tree-shaded campus. They had to adapt to the climate, and used evergreens along the irrigation ditch.

The newer church is located away from the ditches, and has bits of everything. There’s a formal rose garden, a low deciduous hedge around the parking lot, and foundation evergreens along a windowless wall. In the early 1950s, the evergreens meant we understand Japanese landscaping principles. Today they indicate we understand the needs of the five-minute gardener. Neither signal more than this is a proper suburban institution.

Near the church entrance, someone planted daffodils which were blooming last week as members entered for Easter services. They may have meant more, or been what one does.

The Mormons who settled Fairview developed symbolic associations with desert plants. A landscaper has laid out the grounds, perhaps a volunteer member. The plants are almost all evergreens, those symbols of enduring life. But, they added several yucca species to the pines.

Theirs is a garden on Earth, carved out of the arid wilderness. The other large nineteenth century American denominations vary by circumstances. Local Jehovah’s Witnesses built on a sharply falling site. They planted a low, deciduous hedge at ground level to keep people from slipping over the edge. Below, they planted a row of evergreens that now reach the upper level.

It’s impossible to know how much the landscape was dictated by practical demands and how much by theology, but they could have used walls or rails if all they cared about was public safety.

With the Adventists, the limits are obvious. They are renting a building that once was a bank with a row of roses along the street. And not any roses. Hybrid tea roses local women watered in summer when the building was vacant. All the church can do is add a cross, but that’s all that’s needed for a Protestant church that renounced external, Roman excesses.  The rest shows that like the Spanish Protestants who evaded the Inquisition, they can blend into their environment without drawing undue attention to themselves.

The local megachurch has a different situation. Its complex was once a motel with landscaped grounds. Unlike the English Puritans, the church has torn nothing out. The pruned plants are kept pruned, the natives kept within bounds.

Unlike the Methodists and Mormons who draw their congregations from people who already are members, this church must convince local, probably nominal, Roman Catholics to change their allegiance. Near the entrance, the church has installed two arborvitae. They suggest that once the arborvitae was planted by the Santa Cruz church, the tree became the local symbol for an appropriate entrance.

In the area I live, arborvitae are planted everywhere near entrances of houses or in tall hedges that hide the fronts of homes from the road. When another smaller church rented an empty building, it already had a row of arborvitae on the main road, because that is what one does. It also had a row of flowering crab apples on the other side, again because that’s what one does, though one usually plants fertile apples rather than sterile flowering ones.

To know what local links exist between Easter-blooming plants and religion one has to look at the few smaller churches that control their buildings. One has planted deciduous trees along the road and evergreens near the building, with a few shrubs. If anything, they look like they inherited the view of the Methodists, along with their theology, with one crucial cultural difference. The Methodists invite members into the world to which they aspire. This brings them into one where they already are comfortable.

But that other church with the barren site. On the other side, someone stuck an apricot pit in the ground near a wall. For Easter, it was reaching out for the sun to produce what flowers it could in the cold. Apricots are the one enduring symbol of spring and communal life in this area.

Notes: For more on the local, symbolic importance of apricots see posting for 25 March 2007.

1. Sand cherry, 3 April 2013.

2. Dandelion, 4 April 2013.

3. Española church, 27 March 2013.

4. Methodist school grounds, 27 March 2013.

5. New Methodist church grounds, 27 March 2013.

6. Daffodils at new Methodist church before Easter, 27 March 2013.

7. Mormon church grounds, 27 March 2013.

8. Jehovah’s Witnesses church grounds, 27 March 2013.

9. Old bank rented to church ground, 27 March 2013.

10. Local megachurch grounds, 27 March 2013.

11. Local megachurch entrance, 27 March 2013.

12. Building rented by local church a few days before Easter, 27 March 2013. Arborvitae at end.

13. Local church grounds, 27 March 2013.

14. Grounds of local church shown in #1 the week before Easter, from the other side; 28 March 2013.

15. Profusion crab apple leaves, 1 April 2013.

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