A Fern Named Lazarus
I have an asparagus fern named Lazarus.
Why did I name him Lazarus? I’ll tell you why.
I named him Lazarus because when I first got him for my batchelor apartment I was sometimes a neglectful caretaker.
I got the plant so there would be something alive in my apartment besides me. It came in a small green plastic pot about the size of a coffee mug and cost two dollars. It was a little green living thing and it kept me a kind of quiet company.
But, I was freshly separated from my wife and I used my apartment mostly as a place to grab a shower and change clothes. So this new little fern got overlooked, sometimes for days at a time.
Sometimes even longer…
Then one day I’d notice that I had a pot in my kitchen window full of dried brown sticks with a little bit of green still showing. I’d panic and water it and give it some plant food and do a little wishing that it wouldn’t die.
And amazingly, it would come back.
In a week or so there would be small tender green shoots with little soft needles on them, and with some (almost) regular watering the fern would gradually fill out.
Then I would cut the dead stalks out and it would become lush and beautiful.
Till a couple of months later when I would take off for a long weekend followed by some busy weeks at home, and more neglect. The thing is, giving Lazarus regular timely attention would only have taken a few minutes a week.
But I would forget, then I would notice that the fern was dead (except for maybe one or two green branches) and I would water it and feed it and pray a little and it would come back.
That’s why I called him Lazarus. Because he kept coming back from the dead just like the guy in the bible.
Lazarus, The Fern That Wouldn’t Die.
Lazarus has been with me for thirty four years, most of my adult lifetime.
This plant has been my mostly green companion through marriages, businesses and many adventures, good times and not-so-good times. He has been moved from house to house and city to mountains and back again.
He spent about ten years in the ground at one house, but for the last fifteen years he’s lived in a pot. Actually a series of pots, each one a little larger.
Now he is about to outgrow a pot that is two feet in diameter and about as high, and his whole setup weighs about forty pounds.
I have to prune his dead stalks at least once a year now. He (and I) have a little age on us, but we’ve been companions together for a long long time.
We’ve just moved him to a new home, in the high desert east of the Sierra Mountains. I watered Lazarus today out on our front porch, where he is adjusting to the hot summer days and the freezing autumn nights, and preparing for the coming winter snow. I don’t know if I’ll need to move him indoors or not. I figure he’ll let me know.
In the three and a half decades that this fern has been with me I’ve been through many of life’s changes — parenthood and loss of my own parents, changes in mates and friends and jobs, and the seasons of a lifetime.
At this point you may be wondering, why am I taking my time (and yours) to tell you about a geriatric house plant?
See, Lazarus isn’t a redwood tree that will live for centuries and neither am I. We’re not gonna be here that long. So it’s important to notice the elements that surround us in life and take what learning is offered.
I’m telling you about Lazarus because I’ve learned something precious from him.
The lesson that Lazarus has taught me (and perhaps you too) is that where there is attention there is life. And where there is neglect things begin to die.
What is not attended to in our lives will shrivel up. These things might be relationships, plants, projects, or our own personal growth practices.
And yet, even when something has been neglected almost too long, there is hope that with attention you may encourage it to come back into bloom.
I’ve learned from Lazarus never to give up on something because it may be “too late to do anything”.
I’ve learned that there is a divine spark of life that comes from somewhere outside of us. And it’s in us too. It just needs a touch of acceptance, of attention. Valuable things in our lives have a will to live, to forgive neglect and to grow new shoots, new ideas and inspirations.
I invite you to think about it. Might there be something like Lazarus in your life that could use a little fresh attention? Only takes a few minutes a week to save something and maybe enrich your own life.