My Rippling Life and Refrigerated Flowers
Annie Dillard once said “How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives. What we do with this hour, and that one, is what we are doing…”
How could two sentences pack such a complexity of feeling? On one hand, I’m relieved by the simplicity of surrendering to the fact that life is happening NOW - on the other hand, I’m freaked out that life is happening NOW.
“What we do with this hour…. Is what we are doing…”
This comment annoys me. It’s too simple. I want to argue with it. I want to dress it up with caveats and parenthetical notes. I’m uncomfortable that my life could hinge on such a small frame of time.
However - could this hinge be a positive thing?
What if we could change the course of history within an hours’ time?
That sounds pretty productive and superhero-ish.
Terrifying perhaps -- but also rather exciting.
I’m guessing the number 96360 means nothing to you. It’s 11 years of hours. It’s also the anniversary Jonathan and I are celebrating on Sunday. In a pool of 96,360 hours, can we really say that each one matters? If we lost a few hours, would you really notice in a pool of 96 thousand? The answer FEELS like no - but I’m learning that it is overwhelmingly yes.
Let me explain. Say you lose an hour of sleep. So we’re down to 96,359. That isn’t so bad. I didn’t feel anything negative. All is well. But let’s say that happens a couple times a week. Let’s say 3 hours a week. Not so bad… We’ve still got 96,356 hours. I still didn’t feel it.
However - the ripples of our negative actions extend much further than the action itself.
Point and case: What are the ripples of sleep loss?
Irritability, impatience, brain fog, puffy eyes, frazzled desperation at bedtime with kids, shortness with your spouse, grumpy behavior, coffee dependence, the ripples go on and on.
Not all ripples are created equal though. What about an hour lost to disagreement?
If you’ve figured out how to fight and resolve conflict within an hour’s time, PLEASE email me tell me your secret. Then write a book, and make it available to every couple on the planet. We all know life doesn’t usually work like that - at least for females. (Wouldn’t it be interesting if all conflict had to be resolved in 60 minutes?!) It could take DAYS to unwind the conflict created from a few moments of life. The ripple effect.
The frustrating thing about the ripple effect is that you can’t really stop it.
If you throw a stone into a glassy lake, we expect to witness the effects long after the stone leaves our fingers. We expect an effect from the cause.
So why am I so slow to expect an effect from the “stone” of wasting an hour?
I expect ripples on a lake. What if I expected ripples in my life. What if “what we do with this hour…. Is what we are doing…”
As I stand on the threshold of 11 more years, I’m sad to say I’ve let too many of my 96 thousand hours go. It’s too easy to be frustrated for days. It’s too easy to be controlled by my emotions.
It’s too easy to think that growth is someone else’ job.
What's too easy for you? We can lose hours to just about anything. Binge watching? Binge eating? Not teaching your kids? Being upset with your spouse? Scrolling endlessly? Following people on Instagram that are neither helpful nor healthy to look at. How about avoiding God?
The truth is, the stones we throw in this hour, will ripple into the next.
C.S. Lewis once said, “For the present is the point at which time touches eternity.” That concept is a bit big for my morning brain as I write that. Perhaps you need to take another sip of coffee to unpack that one.
Lewis’ preceding sentence is helpful to understand the later: “He [God] therefore, I believe, wants them to attend chiefly to two things, to eternity itself, and to that point of time, which they call the Present. For the present is the point at which time touches eternity.”
Here’s a terrifying thought: What if our ripples extended much further than we can see?
Here’s a terrifying truth: They do.
Jonathan and I were just discussing how “insignifiant” emotional childhood injuries affect people’s marriages 10-20-30 years later. It’s insane how experiences can deeply impact people.
It freaks us out to be parents because we know what we do today will ripple far longer than we realize. Are we victims of our life-long ripples though? I think we can be. I can feel a certain way every.single. time Jonathan and I have a disagreement based on things that happened 2 DECADES ago.
Maybe we don’t have to be victims though...
Craig Groschel wrote that “The decisions you make today will determine the marriage you will have tomorrow.”
Notice how he didn’t say the feelings that you feel today. It’s the decisions that we make. It’s the stones that we throw. Current brain science actually proves that feelings are a product of thoughts. If you’re feeling something, (frustrating, tired?, lonely, depressed?) it stems from a corresponding thought. So my question is - what are we thinking, and can we change it?
What if we used the ripple effect to our advantage? What ripples do we WANT to see? Let’s throw those stones. No - not at our spouses. - But into our lives to make positive ripples.
What ripples do you want to see in your health? Maybe your stone is drinking water today.
What ripples do you want to see in your kids? Maybe your stone is laughing with them today.
What ripples do you want to see in your emotions? Maybe purging is your stone today.
What ripples do you want to see into eternity? Maybe asking God to show himself to you is your stone today.
If “how we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives,” maybe we’d do well to LEARN to consider each day. Sound familiar? Maybe David’s words are more culturally appropriate than some people give them credit for. “...Teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.(Ps 90)” I want a heart of wisdom! Don’t we all? Seriously. Who wouldn’t want a heart of wisdom? It starts with learning to number our days - realizing that the present moment is the intersection of time and eternity.
I want to spend that intersection WELL. I want my next 96,360 hours of marriage to stand tall on the shoulders of our first 96,360 because I’m making the decision to throw stones that cause positive ripples.
For me, this started yesterday with deleting enough pictures on my phone, (don’t judge me) to download Audible, (which was my 2019 Christmas present and I haven’t taken time to download because my phone was too full), and getting a Marriage book that Jonathan and I can “read” together. He can listen while he’s tractor-ing and I can listen in the cracks between diapers and dinner. I’m so excited to see the ripples.
At the end of the day, it’s far too easy to throw stones AT your spouse. Let’s not do that. Let’s throw positive stones, because we want positive ripples.
What does this have to do with refrigerating flowers?
Let me explain.
My brother-in-law is getting married in 18 days, and Anna is one of his flower girls. They want peony petals for the flower girls to throw, but the peonies are already blooming at this moment.
Six years ago, while doing the flowers for my sister-in-laws wedding, we learned that you can refrigerate peonies to essentially pause their development. Our flower supplier used us as his guinea pigs for which we refrigerated a whole wedding’s worth of peonies from May alllllll the way to her August wedding! It was amazing to have a spring flower at a late-summer wedding!!
As I was picking flowers for the wedding in 18 days, I couldn’t help but think about ripples.
If I want positive ripples (flowers in 18 days) I need to throw some very specific stones TODAY. You have to cut and prepare the peonies in a calculated way to actually get flowers later. I needed specific action today to change my realities tomorrow. As anyone who has a peony bush knows, if you leave them alone, they bloom super quickly, and then they are smashed on the ground by the first rain storm. That would not do.
I had to throw specific stones.
I called a local expert - someone who grows peonies for a living.
I followed his instructions
I didn’t wait for another day - or even another hour. I did it right away.
So - I thought I’d pass on the instructions for the next time you need peonies 18 days - or 3 months from now :) There are a few ways to do it. For the 3 month version, we did it a little differently. Here is what we did for the 18 day version.
Saving Peonies for Later
Cut the peonies as buds - just as the first leaves over the bud have “popped”
Remove all lower foliage (I use the foliage for a greenery bouquet!!)
Let the peonies sit inside for 20 minutes
Wrap each one in newspaper
Put the stem ends in a plastic bag
Put them in your fridge!
(No more than) 24 hours before your big day, pull them out of the fridge and re-cut the stems
Put the stems in cool water -Warm water will make them open faster
If they are opening too fast, but them in colder water!
Watch in amazement as your former decisions make positive ripples :)
*Thanks to Harvey from Hidden Springs Flower Farm, Spring Grove for his knowledge and expertise walking me through this once again!* If you need peony help, he's your man! https://www.hiddenspringsflowerfarm.com/