CATEGORY: COL Columns (Journal)

AUTHOR: ARMIST

HED:Lack of root is usually fatal to the spiritual life

By John Armistead

Daily Journal

Late Wednesday afternoon, Nemo and I went over to Gertrude's place. Dio Genes, Sissy and Gertrude were in the backyard putting in a new flower bed.

"You guys have perfect timing," Dio said as we walked up. "We've just about finished."

"She's going to plant roses," said Sissy. "I love roses."

"I love this weather," said Gertrude, smiling and spreading out her arms toward the sky. "I mean the air is a little brisk and it's rained a bit, but look how all the flowers are bursting out everywhere. Look at that forsythia. It's as pretty as a picture."

We moved over to her deck and sat down at the benches around the redwood table.

"Speaking of pictures, you all should have been with me last night," said Nemo. "I saw this writer-artist at Church Street School. He was great. It made me want to take up painting."

"It might be good therapy for you," said Gertrude. "Help take your mind off things."

"Would you paint me a rose?" asked Sissy.

"I prefer daffodils," said Dio. "They're a bit like cats, you know. A tad wild, really. Roses are more like dogs. You have to be doing something for them all the time. But, daffodils are hardy." He swept his hand around. "Most of all this stuff that's budding out now with these crazy warm days is going to get zapped when we have another hard freeze, and, believe me, we are in store for one. Soon."

"That's so sad," said Sissy. "Think of all the fruit trees."

"It's just like the seed that fell in the shallow soil over the rock," Dio said. "It all springs up quickly but then dies."

"But in the parable, the plant was dried up by the sun, not killed by a freeze," I said.

Dio shrugged. "Same thing. It dies. In both cases, it just isn't strong enough. Not enough root. Same as a hot house Christian."

"A what?" asked Sissy.

Dio smirked. "A hot house Christian. That's somebody who's converted in a heated revival meeting or some such frenzy. You know, it's all a pressure-cooker deal. He didn't have time to ripen on his own. The preacher is playing on his emotions, everybody is pushing him, leaning on him, urging him, telling him how they are praying for him, and he finally collapses to their insistence. Later on, then, in the dryness of the ups and downs of ordinary life, he fizzles out."

Nemo looked at his watch, then up at me. "I guess I really need to go home and check on Grandmother," he said.

All the way back to his place he was quiet. He stared out the window as I drove along the streets. I wondered if Gertrude's remark about getting his "mind off things" had, in fact, gotten him all concerned again about his cousin.

I parked in front of his house and he asked me to come inside and speak to Mrs. Steinwither.

We were standing on the front porch when a small dark red automobile passed by. I turned to look but the sun reflected off the car's window and I couldn't see who it was.

The brake lights came on and the car stopped, turned around in the middle of the road and came back. It parked right in front of my car, and the driver's door swung open.

A young woman got out. She started walking our way.

I'd never seen her before. She was wearing jeans and a white knit sweater, and her long black hair spilled over her shoulders. Her eyes were almond-shaped, very dark and bright, and her skin looked the color of honey.

She stopped right in front of the porch, looked up at us and said, "You guys know someone named Nemo?"

"I'm Nemo," he said softly.

She grinned. "Hi. I'm Eliwila."

John Armistead is Daily Journal religion editor.

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