Lent 2016 takes me into my collection of photos, letting my lifelong hobby provide prompts for some reflective writing. Today, another view from a railroad trip through the Canadian Rockies. A flower. DSC03556.JPG

Once again, I see more now than when I first focused the camera. This plant is called fireweed (Chamerion angustifolium). Look carefully. Take your time. See the progression in its bloom. The flowering is slowly moving up the stem. Toward the lower stem, the bloom is extinguished. In the middle, a bee has found nectar in the fullness there. And at the top: the future will bloom. The evolution of a wildflower.

Educator Ron Cram, a colleague at the former Presbyterian School of Christian Education, had a deep appreciation for weeds. Ron even built his own magnificent large format camera so he could photograph (both capture and free) the  beauty of the colorful blooms that sprung from weeds, or as we more kindly call them, wild flowers.

Ron Cram and I produced a video titled “Consider the Lilies” in which Ron convincingly used the comeliness and grace of those weedy wildflowers as metaphor for the members of the human family whose value is overlooked, discounted, ignored, or ridiculed. God sees the poor, the needy, the oppressed differently than we who place such value (or misplace such value) on celebrity, fashion, success, and surface attractiveness.

If I’d had the budget for it, I’d have gotten permission to use the 1973 Skylark hit “Wildflower” in that video, for it builds on the same metaphor, seeing one hurting person as “a free and gentle flower growing wild.”

So there’s that fireweed. Weed. But lovely. And from what ground does it spring? An ice field. The blurry background of this photo is a massive glacier. It’s the Athabasca Glacier in Jasper National Park, Alberta. When I took this picture, I focused on that one lovely, pink, fragile weed, blossoming — and standing against the icy gray-blue background of the mighty glacier. Seemed to work well at the time.

But look again. Not just with eyes, but with mindful appreciation of what is happening here. There is no little irony in this situation. The glacier is fading. Shrinking. Dying. Global warming is sending those glaciers into extinction, scientists warn us. But the little wildflower? Appearing so fragile? It will still flourish after the glacier has receded even further than it has over the past generations. As the ice melts, the weed persists. It will blossom. And the bee will have its nectar. The little weed wins.

Until it’s all under water. And the bees disappear.

This may be a lovely photograph. I think so anyway. But it is also a sign. Let those with eyes to see…see. And understand that our wild excesses are changing our planet. Today we can wonder at and celebrate the beauty of the wilderness, but as earth becomes more barren, future generations may wonder only at our stupidity and greed.

There are signs we cannot ignore.