Deeper than I Know

Deeper than I Know April 13, 2024

a white wildflower known as Dutchman's Breeches, growing out of the side of a shale cliff.
image by Mary Pezzulo

I drove out to see the wildflowers, in Serendipity.

Last year, due to the fiasco with the car, I was trapped in Steubenville and couldn’t go hiking until June. Forest wildflowers are gone by June. The trees’ canopy cuts off their sun.  They are ephemeral, a miracle that appears for a few weeks in spring. Then we get the miracle of the shade trees that cool the hiking trails by ten degrees. Then we get the miracle of Autumn. Then we get the miracle of ice. Right now we’re just about at the beginning of the peak wildflower time.

The same state park that has the waterfall is renowned for its wildflower reserve. 

I can’t possibly describe for you the richness of the wildflower reserve. It’s like a stained glass window spread out over several Appalachian hills.

Of course I stopped to take too many pictures.

Of course I stood for far too long, admiring the emerald green slick of a vernal pool, which didn’t smell nearly as bad as I thought it might.

Of course I got lost on a maze of trails, and gave up reading signs and just followed trails downhill until I got to the meadow.

bluebells growing on the forest floor
image via Pixabay

Of course I followed the meadow trail to river, and climbed out on a great big outcropping of living tree roots, and watched the river flow by under me.

I pretended that I was a Tolkien elf and a child in Narnia and a tour guide taking a gaggle of appreciative children to see the flowers– everything other than what I am.

I missed the little girl who used to be called Rosie, a young woman who is now finishing out the sixth grade with near perfect grades and a gaggle of new friends. And I mourned the life I never got to have for the thousandth or the millionth time.

an unknown variety of yellow wildflower growing on the forest floor
image by Mary Pezzulo

Let’s say that while I was out on the trail, tying to find that vernal pool, in a patch of glorious periwinkles with birds singing overhead, I met God. Let’s say God walked with me for the rest of the hike.

I’m not a charismatic anymore and I’ll never be a charismatic again. I understand that I have an imagination. I’ll never be sure how much of what I imagined was God until I see God face to face. But let’s say God was there.

Let’s say we spoke.

“How can it be that the God who made the Appalachian mountains also made Steubenville? How can it be that I am certain I’ve known you in the rites and rituals of the Catholic Church,  but I’m also certain I’ve known you in my friendship with Holly the Witch and the other people that Church despises? How can the God who didn’t let me die when I was in so much pain that I couldn’t stop begging, is the God who decided that there should be a vernal pool just here and a patch of periwinkles over this way to fill me with joy beyond all telling? Who are you?”

a periwinkle growing on the forest floor
image by Mary Pezzulo

My love, this is a mystery that cannot be explained. You have seen parts of me, but I am so much bigger than you know, and so much deeper than you know, and so much wider than you know, and so much better than you know.  I am great enough to contain it all, and tiny enough to enter into it all, and vulnerable enough to suffer it all and draw every injustice to myself. And while you’re here, I made you these flowers. 

“Did you mean for me to get trapped out here? Did you mean for these things to happen to me?”

This is another mystery that cannot be explained. What you’ve been through is hell and I don’t will hell, but hell happened anyway. When I saw you were going to descend into hell, I decided to descend to hell with you. And I made you these flowers. 

“Do you know how much it hurts that nobody loves me and I’ve lost everything?”

I made you these flowers.

“Are you angry that I can’t go to confession because of the PTSD? Are you going to send me to hell? The real one, I mean?”

I made you these flowers. 

I walked along the riverside to the beaver dam, through a patch of glorious thick mud so deep I thought I was going to get stuck. Mayapples with their umbrellas tightly curled lined the path. A downy woodpecker hopped sideways up a dead tree.

I finally got to Shafer’s Rock, a great big jutting layer cake of shale strata that meant I was almost back to the parking lot.

Jutting out of a crack in Shafer’s Rock, growing horizontal about ten feet off the ground, was a patch of Dutchman’s Breeches: a wild white variety of bleeding heart.

I made you these flowers. 

I made you these flowers.

I made you these flowers. 

I left the park with no more answers than when I came, but I left at peace.


Mary Pezzulo is the author of Meditations on the Way of the Cross, The Sorrows and Joys of Mary, and Stumbling into Grace: How We Meet God in Tiny Works of Mercy.

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