This past week-end I had the pleasure of being with my friends in their home in Yalobusha County, Mississippi. Deep in the woods away from highways and city lights, they have created a sanctuary of cabin, covered porches, and gardens. From the woods they have brought stones of all kinds and sizes to create a walkway from their cabin to the morning porch—a stone path lined with fence on one side and large stones on the other. Walking down the stone path to the morning porch, coffee in hand, sunlight peeping over the trees behind my back, I came to the large boulder positioned just outside the morning porch, as if standing sentinel for all who came to sit and ponder. To my astonishment, seemingly growing out of this large stone were plants. This hard cold stone seemed to nourish its own garden. Before, I had thought only moss grew on rocks. My friend must have noticed my look of wonder and said, “That’s a Resurrection Fern.”
Resurrection. New life after apparent death. At first I thought the fern must be getting its nourishment from the stone, and I was thinking how even our hardest experiences can provide nourishment for our journey. Later I learned the truth of Resurrection Ferns. They grow on stones, but they take their nourishment from the air and water. They have a rare capability to withstand great drought, losing up to 97% of their inner water without dying. Most plants would die after losing 8-12%. Dr. Ken Kramm, former professor of ecology at Michigan Technical University and the University of Houston, described this capacity as being “an amazing superpower!” When these ferns are losing water, they curl up their fronds with undersides turned up because that’s the part that absorbs water. Then, when living water comes, the leaves unfurl as they are revitalized, fully flourishing again.
Not only do Resurrection Ferns have within themselves the power to keep living despite drought, to wait, to gather the water they need, and to flourish to new life, they also have properties that cause many native peoples to use them as healing remedies for heart problems and infections.
Humans die after losing 15% of our water. But we also feel lifeless when we go through significant losses. They may be losses of relationships, death of a loved one, loss of a dream, loss of health of self or loved ones, loss of treasured objects or our homes. When we experience difficult periods in our lives, they sometimes feel like drought, like all the water has been drained out of us. They often feel like stones holding us down. They are hard, heavy, hurtful. Or they feel like drought. Our flow is dried up. We curl up on those stones, protect ourselves, go on living but feeling dry, lifeless, numb.
But like the heart of the Resurrection Fern, our Heart Wisdom knows how to wait, how to turn the underside of our fronds up for when water comes, and how to draw on Spirit all around and within us. Then one day we are able to receive the living water pouring on us, to get in touch with resources we thought we had lost, and our fronds begin to unfurl, turn green again, and wave in the wind of the Spirit.
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