Unexpected Gifts

They are the best kind


Close-up of bright yellow bearded iris in flower.
An unexpected gift: bearded iris flowering amidst parsley and garlic chives.

Gifts fall into two categories – expected and unexpected.


We receive expected gifts on our birthdays, at Christmas, when we get married, move into a new house, or retire. They come gift-wrapped in colourful paper with a giant bow atop, or in a gift-bag tied with streaming ribbons. We see the gifts coming in the hands of those we love. They’re highly noticeable. Hard to ignore. We can’t wait to open them.


But we receive unexpected gifts every day, and we often don’t notice them. They’re given to us freely so we tend to ignore them.


What are these unexpected, freely given gifts?


  • birdsong

  • wind and rainbows

  • the sound of water

  • the perfume of flowers

  • the sky over our head and the ground beneath our feet

  • old trees and new grass

  • a touch from another human being


Two years ago, I was given an unexpected gift from a stranger. She asked if I’d like some bearded iris, and without waiting for me to reply, thrust a clump of tubers into my hand. They still had soil attached. I looked down at them, wondering what to do. I couldn’t give them back or ask for more information because she’d already gone – probably to dig up more tubers to give to other strangers.


I’d never grown iris, bearded or un-bearded, but found space in one of our raised garden beds and buried them. And waited. And waited. They finally peeped above the soil, then grew tall, flat leaves. But that was all. Nothing bearded appeared. I wondered if I should pull them up and throw them away but resisted the urge.


They multiplied the second year, and this winter, to my delight, they produced many stunning bright yellow bearded flowers. They light up the garden. Their warm glow reminds me of a stranger and an unexpected and freely given gift that I couldn’t give back because she’d gone. I can’t personally thank the giver, but I can follow her example. If that clump of iris spreads any further, I’ll be digging up some of the tubers and accosting people in the street to give them some, too!


The interesting thing about the list of unexpected, freely given gifts listed above that we receive every day, is that we can’t give them back either. We can’t give back birdsong, the sky or old trees. We can't give back an unexpected, loving touch.


All we can do is pay attention to these gifts and be thankful.


With love, Marlane

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