|This Utah State Flower was an unlikely symbol of hope for thousands in the 1800s. The bulbs had long been roasted, boiled or made into a porridge by Native Americans. They were used as a more mainstream life-saving food source when locusts ravaged every edible crop in Utah. The sego lily became the only available source of food for starving Mormon settlers – since locusts found the flowers distasteful. In the middle of the settlers despair and nearly certain death, the overlooked roots of this tiny flower became their rescuer.
We use it as a symbol of hope here to remind us of small things in our own lives that we might be overlooking which could make all the difference and nourish us now. The unobtrusive sego lily is also like the quiet healthy cells in your body – working, unseen, to bring us back to a state of health.
Sego lilies can be propagated from newly-formed bulblets – but take two years to flower. We hope for this level of patience as our own bodies return to full bloom.
|St. Patrick utilized the three leafed clover as an illustration of the Christian holy trinity. Each leaf representing: Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. The three protrusions may also be symbolic of the three theological virtues found in first Corinthians 13:13: Faith, Love, and Hope. Nevertheless, the shamrock was also seen as sacred in the pre-Christian days in Ireland. Due to its green color and overall shape, many viewed it as representing rebirth and eternal life.
We are familiar with it today as an Irish symbol for luck. Hope and luck make very good traveling companions as we begin our journey back to health. We also use it in the context of the Hope Tree as a symbol for the rhythm of life. If we skate along the outer edges swirling back to the center with each revolution it becomes a never ending triptych “figure eight.”
In our cancer journey we must always allow our body and sprit to return to center. Here we refill our hearts with hope before we swing out wide once more – ready to fight for our lives.
|Shells have been used by humans in many forms for millennium: as currency, tools, vessels, scrapers, blades, boat bailing and oil lamps. In particular, scallop shells are a symbol of St. James the Great, who left his work by the seashore to follow Jesus Christ as one of his first apostles. He carried a scallop shell with him as he traveled – asking people along the way to fill his shell with food or drink – only taking what was needed to continue his journey. In this way, scallop shells began to symbolize pilgrimages in general.
That intricate shell you find largely intact as you stroll the beach has had an incredible journey from thousands of miles away – tossed and turned by the seas of life. It presents itself to us as a symbol of hope: hope that the tiniest and most delicate of us can also survive life’s storms and stay intact for another day.
We are on a pilgrimage now and will take all the nourishment – mind, body and spirit – that is offered to us.
|Spirals are all around us. Start paying attention and you will find spirals everywhere: seeds, bugs, weather patterns, plants, snails, ram horns, chambered nautilus shells, whirlpools, DNA, galaxies, cacti, pine cones, acorns, sunflowers and waves. The very music to which we listen filters through a spiral in the inner ear. Our first connection to life itself is through a spiraling umbilical cord. Clearly, the spiral is one of nature’s most versatile building blocks. No wonder all ancient civilizations have some form of this image in their oldest imagery. Given its appearance at prehistoric burial sites across the globe, the spiral most likely represented the “life-death-rebirth” cycle.
The writers at SpiralZoom.com explain this eloquently: “Part of human existence is constantly encountering the fundamental laws of nature, then interpreting and engaging with them. Through this process, disparate peoples and succeeding generations develop their own cultural mythologies that seek to answers the time-old questions of humanity: What kind of creature am I? Where do I come from? What am I made of? What happens when I die? Human ancestors asked these same questions as they gazed at the sky – scratching their visions and conjectures into stone. Whatever story they wove, all across the globe, our ancestors carved the spiral.” We call upon the spirals sacred architecture now to help us find meaning in this cancer journey and emerge from it more enlightened.
Similarly, the spiral also symbolized the sun – with its radiating heat waves. Ancient peoples thought the sun was born each morning, died each night, and was reborn the next morning. May we feel reborn each day with new determination to live this day in a place of hope.