The title should have been Callicarpa Americana. I like to use the proper Latin name for my plants whenever possible, boring as that surely must be to non-gardeners. This plant, center stage in my favorite garden at the front of the house, is one exception. It just begs to have the name “beauty” used to describe it.
The plant’s astounding display of my favorite color is one reason for my uncharacteristic use of its nickname. Very few perennial plants give me such gorgeous purple color for so long. After the killing frosts, the leaves drop, and the beautiful purple berries remain. I have used them at this stage as a component of some winter floral arrangements. The rest, left in the garden, provide sustenance for our feathered friends for the early winter.
The berries are pretty to look at until the continued frosts and harsh weather fade the color out of them, and the winds eventually knock all the fruit off. Even so, I recently spotted a mockingbird sneaking up on the plant to feed, as I was standing in quiet contemplation close to it. I suppose the bush was beautiful to him, if not to me, as other sources of nourishment had begun to dwindle from the yard.
You may have figured out by now that I tend to associate a hymn with almost every plant. Yes, you guessed it! “Let the beauty of Jesus be seen in me” is my musical prayer when I admire this small shrub. It makes me reflect on whether there are enough traits from the image of God in my life that people are attracted to him by what I am and how I conduct my life. Do I let my light shine, like these branches show off their shiny plum-colored berry clusters?
I have had several nice comments on this handsome bush. The birds are attracted by the berries even after the weather has ravaged them. Its arching branches, fragile as they seem, have provided shelter for some small animal all last summer, despite the best efforts by my dog to pull free from his leash and rout it. Let our actions provide that shelter, and sustenance, and beauty that will reflect the true nature of Christ to the world around us, and to people who need to see Jesus in us.
Purple has long been my favorite color. We are children of the King, and purple is a color of royalty. Do people see our demeanor as royal? Do we keep from getting flustered and discouraged from the day-to-day irritations of life, or do we let that regal temperament shine through with its poise and centeredness that shows we have our eye on a greater prize? We must keep our lives beautiful by being single-minded about our purpose here, and not letting our branches sway with every breeze, losing the fruit that is so valuable.
Real and lasting beauty is not “braiding the hair, and wearing gold jewelry, or putting on dresses” (1 Peter 3:3 NASB). Not even my garden in its prime is the kind of aesthetic pleasure that will last, it will all be burned up in the end. Nice car? Temporary pleasure. Great house, impeccably decorated? Nice for now, but it won’t last. Especially with children around!
The scriptures don’t say we shouldn’t have these things at all, but to keep our perspective and priorities. Cultivate the inner beauty, the kind that matters. Treasure the kind of beauty that sustains, shelters, and cheers those around us, like my Beauty Berry. Now, THAT’S pretty.