The stand of irises at the corner of my yard reminds me of my visit to the Heian shrine in Kyoto, Japan, some years back. There, cluster after cluster of irises lined the banks of the peaceful lake within the walls of the shrine. They were everywhere, providing a calm and peaceful refuge in the middle of a busy city. I loved my visit to Japan and want to return some day.
My irises were salvaged from the alley about three years ago. When I planted them I had no idea what color they were or whether they would even make it in my newly carved out bed. But last year they bloomed for the first time. I was expecting the classic purple, but found, to my surprise, beautiful white petals instead.
This year there are more flowers than ever. They have bloomed very early and their timeliness weighs heavy on my heart. Kyoto, of course, is far away from the physical devastation, but ever close in heartache for their countrymen lost to the earthquake and the tsunami.
Flowers have long been ascribed meanings in world cultures. The iris has held a place as a sacred flower. In Greek mythology, the iris is associated with death. To the Japanese it symbolizes faith, valor, and wisdom. It is an important symbol in Japanese art. The iris is also believed to purify evil energies or to provide protection.
In Eastern cultures, white is the color of death, while in Western cultures it represents purity and peace.
Every day my irises remind me of the courage with which the Japanese people are facing terrible suffering and death and the heroism shown by the workers at the nuclear power plant in the face of grave danger. But my flowers also call me to prayer for the Japanese, for peace in the midst of the chaos and for wisdom to face a future beyond such difficulty.
For the people of Japan...Father, protect them from evil and give them hope.