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Updated: Jul 31, 2022

Late July is a great time to buy certain plants – like Shasta Daisies, Coneflowers, and Black Eyed Susans. This is because they cost next to nothing. By late July, people have lost interest in planting. Planting is the stuff of Mother’s Day weekend. Canning is the stuff of late July. So by late July, stores, in turn, have lost interest in their plants. They then neglect them, making them all the more undesirable. The plants are both root bound from lack of space and wilted from lack of watering. They appear to be at death’s door. But in fact they are minutes away from restoration. All they need is soil, sunlight, and water…and perhaps a little pruning and deadheading.

So we headed to Walmart for a plant run. I had been there the previous day and noticed that their price had hit rock bottom – from $7.99 to $1.99. To my horror two women had beaten me to them, were holding them up appraising them. I milled around wringing my hands. “What idiot would spend money on plants that are half dead?” I heard one woman remark to the other. “This idiot,” I thought to myself. Perhaps I am an idiot. But perhaps too life has taught me the promise of outcasts – whether they’re plants, animals, or people.

They’re all around us, and they’re waiting. Some with nothing more than the dumb drive to survive; some with patience; some with impatience, some with hope, some with despair. They’re waiting for someone to rescue them.

Back in suburbia I used to shop at PetSmart. Petsmart doubles as a cat rescue. As I was about my shopping, a deathly howl pierced the air. I followed the howl to its source. The cat was fine, physically at least, but he was in terrible distress over his captivity. I ended up adopting him. He turned out to be one of those once-or-twice-in-a-lifetime pets you happen upon if you’re lucky – possessed of a certain kind of pet charisma. Here at the farm we’ve installed cat doors for him all over, and he has his run of the place; or perhaps better to say he runs the place. He knows every nook and cranny, and around here there are plenty of them, so he can capitalize on his penchant for popping up wherever we happen to be. Like so many other outcasts, he was meant for better things.

I am no Pollyanna. Life has taught me realism too. For some outcasts, it’s too late for rescue. Their victimization has ossified. And this makes them unable to field existence on the terms that existence offers; so existence, sooner rather than later, does them in, and does them in tragically and ruthlessly.

My father, a pastor and theologian, believed that God was answerable for irredeemable outcasts; that to rationalize them away as those brought low by their own bad choices was claptrap. My father shook his fist at God on their behalf. My father may have been walking a razor’s edge between faith and blasphemy. But whether God is answerable for them or not, God is their only hope for their only hope is eternal redemption. But all outcasts at least deserve the chance. And what better is there to do in life than give them the chance?

The Coneflowers, Shasta Daisies, and Black Eyed Susans were given the chance, and in a few seasons I’ll bet they could teach Piet Oudolf a lesson or two.

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