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It was Manuel who made me stop and smell the roses yesterday.

Or camellias I should say.

“Miss Janet, did you see the flowers,” he asked, his English very clear, slightly lyrical due to a gentle Spanish lilt.

“Yes,” I said smiling up at him. He was trimming one of hundreds of crepe myrtles and as he stopped his clipping, he rested his arms on the top rung of the ladder, and looked down at me.

“They are beautiful, no?”

“Gorgeous. The prettiest I have seen them. They have liked the winter we’ve had.” And we continued our conversation, him telling me that he never worried about the camellias, their cold hardy, floweriness something of a botanical wonder to him.

“Do you think I should blow the blossoms away that have fallen?” he asked, a smile dancing around his lips.

I turned and look. All around the base of the massive pots were pink blossoms. Only slightly spent, they could not have been prettier than if an artist has staged the composition. They looked proper there, a place that only they could occupy.

I shook my head.

“You think it looks like a painting, too, don’t you?” he asked. I nodded.

We talked a bit of this and that and then he asked about my mother.  He wished her well, meaning it, his eyes telling me so. I mentioned that she teases me more each day that she’s had one more night that God didn’t take her through the pearly gates.

And then he said from up there on his ladder, sort of like a big burly heavenly messenger, the following, with a bit less smoothness, picking his words carefully. Not because he didn’t know what he wanted to say but because he wanted to make sure he said it exactly how he should say it: “We are like the plants. We start out and grow. And then it comes time for life to be over. There is only one way to handle that. Make sure you do the most with this day. Be happy in your work. Be happy when you have a good meal tonight. And when you go to sleep feel joy in the day you lived. If God gives you another tomorrow, do the same. No matter our age.”

He smiled broadly at me, one meaty fist gently wiping a sunbeam from his eye.

This is not the first time Manuel has given me pause to wonder how much God manages to show his love through him.

I took a closer look at the flowers.

The pink camellias were buzzing with honey bees, the gray morning giving over to a bit of sun.

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The female worker, intent upon her job, dove head first.

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Gathering nectar, she pushed pollen into her pollen basket, a polished cavity on her hind legs, surrounded by an intricate set of hairs. The pollen would nourish the hive, it’s grains rich in proteins.

See her full basket, heavy and yellow on her leg?

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A gentle prayer, heavy with the thought of a good days work passed as I considered the role of worker bees and hives and garden tenders and mothers and daughters.

Then flowing gently from soul to mind, I considered my God, somewhere in Heaven, that place beyond the stars, looking down at a beautiful blue planet swirling madly in a solar system with an exploding sun, where in one small corner, on the crust of that planet, stands a man on a ladder musing to a woman about the value of spent and scattered camellias and she about the worker bees that spent a good day gathering for the hive.

I felt His smile and am thanking my Father for yet another day filled with His purpose for me. And those I love. And He loves.

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