My “Banana Trees”

This summer, my boys and I were running errands, listening to Dragon of the Red Dawn, by the amazing Mary Pope Osborne,* when my heart was linked to a seventeenth-century Japanese poet:  Basho.  In the book, Basho’s character says, “[M]y banana tree is more beautiful to me than all the beauty of the Imperial Garden.” 

“Mine too,” my heart sang.  I understood his sentiment perfectly.  And although I had been introduced to Basho’s work before—had even shared his “frog” haiku with my former middle-school students—at that moment, I became a fan.

If you came to visit me, you might be surprised to find no trace of a banana tree in my yard.  I have never planted one.  The rosemary bush I started from seed, the thriving gardenia that wasn’t supposed to grow in my soil type, the rose that began from a cutting from my grandmother’s flower bed . . . these are my “banana trees.”  And the plants under my care, the plants I see every day, are the plants that whisper to me of God’s beauty and faithfulness.  In the dirt right outside my doors and windows, I see miracles.

'Frostproof' gardenia

‘Frostproof’ gardenia

To every other human eye, the public botanical gardens, in all their splendor, would put my gardening efforts to shame.  Oh, but the tiniest bloom one’s own hands have helped God to create can inspire more awe than a field of tulips sown by hired gardeners.  Seeing a rosebud in my garden early in the morning gives my heart a lilt – like I am witnessing a birth.

The master of haiku loved his first banana plant, given to him by his students, so much that he borrowed its name, Basho (“banana tree”), for his own.  He would have seen it die back, its leaves and stem melting into goo in freezing weather.  He would have seen it reemerge, full of vigor, each spring.  And, he would have understood that a plant we care for through every stage of its journey—its beginning, its thriving, its struggling, its resting, its awakening—teaches us what it means to truly love.

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*#37 in The Magic Tree House series

Here are some of my favorite haiku by Basho:

Come out to view

The truth of flowers

Blooming in poverty

The banana tree

Blown by winds pours raindrops

Into the bucket

Breakfast enjoyed

In the fine company of

Morning glories

Along the mountain road

Somehow it tugs at my heart—

A wild violet

The old pond:

A frog jumps in—

The sound of water

3 thoughts on “My “Banana Trees”

  1. Your writings make me feel still and quiet inside. I always feel a little closer to God after reading them. You write beautifully.

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