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Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Another Christmas, Another Miracle

On occasion, I must confess that my faith slips a cog, like a car with a bad clutch. When I see good people frightened by a seemingly hopeless future, when I hear bad news crowding out all else in the media, when I look into the faces of strangers and find soul-weary sadness, I wonder, “Is there really a God? A benevolent force in our Universe?” and my belief that we are watched over, cared for, and loved falters—especially in a “season of joy.”

Always, when my spirits hit their lowest ebb, there comes a miracle, a tiny glimmer of hope in response to a need so personal (and usually frivolous) I’d never name it out loud. One year, I longed to see a copy of The Bird’s Christmas Carol by Kate Wiggins, a story that enchanted me as a child. Written 110 or so years ago, it’s a sad story but (if you can get past the melodrama of the times), a reminder of how to live one’s life. What were the chances of seeing a copy, especially late on Christmas Eve? Well, here’s the miracle: I found the book in its entirety on the Internet. Go to

This year, the miracle took another form.

My spirits were sagging in September after we dropped Michael off at college. At a rest stop on our long drive home, I found a chunk of Resurrection Moss lying on the ground. Resurrection Moss, pleopeltis polypodioides, is really a fern and an epiphyte, a type of plant that exists by attaching itself to a host such as a tree. In extreme drought, the pleopeltis polypodioides' fronds shrivel and turn brown, effectively dying. But when the rain comes, the whole plant bursts into a lovely bright green cluster. Read more about it here

I tucked the “moss” I'd found into a ziplock bag and toted it back to Missouri. Once home, I put the plant in an old fishbowl covered with plastic to make a terrarium. There it grew, a cheerful spot of green in my office. All was well until the day I discovered the bark covered in a gooey mold, and the fronds turned to mush.

They say Resurrection Moss can withstand extreme dryness for 100 years, but this was…bad. I once worked in a greenhouse, and my old boss used to say, “The profit is in the hands of the man with the watering can.” More plants die from overwatering than underwatering. I’d let too much moisture build up inside the bowl. I’d drowned my poor plant.

Last weekend I gave my office a pre-Christmas cleaning. The desiccated hunk of bark begged to be tossed out. Hadn’t it died an awful death? But instead of giving it the heave-ho, I soaked the chunk in water.

The next day I was greeted by a happy green frond, and some new baby fronds, too.

So call me silly and sentimental, but something inside me also sprang back to life. Some part of me unfurled and turned a happy green. Even in the worst of times, a simple miracle can do that. Especially one just in time for Christmas.


RhondaL said...

The best part is that hope revived itself after the moss had been abandoned.

Well, it's not a perfect metaphor, but you get the idea. Merry Christmas to you and yours, Joanna.

Joanna Campbell Slan said...

We're all perfectly imperfect, Rhonda. You are right--it was my hope and faith that were revived!