Brazil Unravelled

The Power of Life

While I was checking out pictures I’ve taken while leading a work group to Brazil I was once again amazed at the power of life in plants we saw to grow and to thrive.  It is not necessary to go to the jungle to see the “elan vital” or life force that is the fountain of growth. So it is that my pictures show banana and palm trees splendid in their green dress. More interesting yet to a visitor from a climate such as ours are the flowering bushes and trees. I recall seeing a sidewalk sprinkled with the pink and red flowers fallen from the kapok tree while the tree still had more to shed.

Since the kapok tree says so much about the power of life in nature, I must tell you more about it. Doris and I were only weeks in Brazil when we saw these gorgeous trees in bloom—but they bloomed without a leaf. The branches were bare except for the immense covering of flowers. They say the absence of leaves gives easy access for bats to enjoy the abundant nectar of the flowers. The tree is also a source of honey for bees. The seeds from the tree are easily scattered so that the kapok tree is one of the first to grow in an open area. The tree is known also as the “silk cotton tree” for in its pods is the light material that in days past filled life preservers.

And the orchids that many Brazilians love, grow and bloom with so little care—they are so beautiful. I have a couple of dozen orchids but nothing like the plants I’ve seen in Brazil. There an orchid may have an incredible two or three dozen blooms of a type that is hard to encounter here. All colours in remarkable combinations! Friends at one time showed me the orchids blooming in their small back yard. The lady had tied pieces of orchids to the trunk and branches of a tree but then gave them little or no care. And they bloomed! I recall visiting with a poor family in the interior of the State of Sao Paulo. Their life was on a subsistence level but she had lovely orchids growing on the trees in what was basically a barren yard. The life and beauty of flowers adds another dimension to anyone’s life.

The road to our seminary years ago wound down through jungle-covered hills. The caretaker for the property must have thought the trail needed beautifying for he planted poinsettia bushes every few yards along the way. Where would he get so many bushes? ( Remember the poinsettia really is a bush.) So very simple a solution! He broke off branches from other bushes, made a hole in the soil large enough to shove in the branch and then tamped it tight with the heel of his boot. Voila—new thriving flowering bushes all along the roadway. When we moved to the city of Sao Paulo there was just such a bush in our front yard. It not only stood eight feet tall but had those red leaves that we call flowers, each petal at least a foot long. And we just took it all for granted because we lived in Brazil.

In the back yard of that same home was a Joboticaba tree that is about the size of a large apple tree. When it has no leaves little fuzzy flowers appear on the trunk and branches so that later a purple fruit the size of a grape or plum appear. Strange to see this exotic tree loaded with a fruit that makes good preserves. Here is how you might eat one—bite it open, suck out the white inside, spit out the white centre with seeds and also discard the skin. It is a delicious fruit but the skin is bitter. Yes, we loved the Joboticaba tree in our yard but took its strange fruitfulness for granted.

I could go on and tell you about the papaya trees we had in the interior that produced a huge fruit that might weigh fifteen pounds. What a delicious fruit! And the avocados. the mangoes and the oh-so-sweet pineapples. But whether fruit or flower, the vibrant life exhibited reminds me of a life that each of us possess. We may have some DNA in common with trees but we each have a life force that reaches further for it reaches for the stars. This LIFE goes beyond what the artist or the artisan possess. This inner hankering is a divine push that will not be satisfied outside of surrender and worship of the Eternal One.

So the next time you bite into an apple, think about the life that brought it into being and would at the same time encourage you to touch that which is Eternal.

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