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Looking For The Thistle Among The Shamrocks

by Bingran Zeng March 16, 2014

Looking For The Thistle Among The Shamrocks

 


St Patrick’s Day has become a confusing holiday for me; a mysteriously marbled mixture of Scottish and Irish folklore and traditions. I come from a long line of both Scottish and Irish clans. As a child, I attended the Scottish Highlands Games and Festivals. My little brother and I delighted in all things Celtic. (As in “Braveheart! FREEDOM!!”) We also knew the story of how St. Patrick used the Shamrock to explain the Holy Trinity to the Pagan Irish and his supposed banishment of the snakes. We wore green on March 17th and looked for pots of gold, leprechauns and fairies. We figured if the Blarney stone was worth kissing, it must be pretty darn lucky. My mother, being gifted in the ancient art of storytelling, stitched trinkets of both Irish and Scottish lore into the patchwork quilt of stories from our Appalachian heritage. Life was so simple.

 

And then it all changed.  I became a Thistle Farmer, pretty much overnight. My path in life took a new direction; all things childish were set aside. After many years of letting thorns and weeds choke my very life, I experienced the healing power of the thistle. Now, those beautiful, purple blossoms that stand tall enough to be seen from a car window, are much more fascinating to look for than “lucky” 4-leaf clovers or those pots of gold that I never found. I now spend my time looking for the thistles among the shamrocks.

 

The Irish celebrate “Luck o’ the Irish” on March 17th. I was surprised to learn that the very first St. Patrick's Day celebration in America was held at a place called the “Thistle Tavern.” Even though there isn’t a national holiday for the “lucky thistle”, the Scottish consider the thistle as bearing good fortune much as the Irish do the shamrock.

 

Becoming a Thistle Farmer has brought me far more than shamrocks. More precious than gold is the strength and love of our volunteers, watching as our events calendar fills, being present on a resident’s first day of work… and her second… and her third. More precious than gold is seeing the courage and resilience of the women as they strive to regain custody of their children, hearing the gratitude they share in morning meditation, and building reciprocal relationships with compassionate, community-driven organizations. Those are all rainbows in my book, and way better than that tarnished pot of gold that will never appear.

 

 
It is not a coincidence that I ended up at Thistle Farms. God has strategically placed me here. Not for my purposes, but for His. Whether it be from thistles or shamrocks, I figure either way, I have all the luck and love in the world.After several false starts, graduating Magdalene and working at Thistle Farms, I consider myself blessed beyond measure.  On this day of “Wearing of the Green," honoring St. Patrick, and unconsciously looking for the end of rainbows, I am also celebrating the thistle. I thank God for the salvation it brought to my distant kinsmen and now for the way it is healing my own life today, hundreds of years later. 

 

Unlike those illusive pots of gold at the ending of rainbows, I have found actual rainbows sweeping upward and outward, like the stroke of a multi-hued paint brush, from the end of the stalwart royal purple thistles. 

 

Rainbows begin and end in my office every day: stitching the story quilt of Thistle Farms. 

 

By Kristin V.
Magdalene Graduate and Thistle Farms Event Coordinator
Bingran Zeng
Bingran Zeng



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