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My Life Is My Career

Christine Maccabee

Misunderstood, but beautiful

In a very real way, flowers are a lot like people. Fragile, they are born vulnerable, and if fortunate to receive the proper care, will thrive and bear much beauty. Also, many people, like flowers, are misunderstood. Some of us are late bloomers and get cut down while we are struggling to grow, while others of us may express ourselves in the wrong way, or the wrong place, and are criticized

The connection between humans and the natural world being what it is-ever constant and essential-it is oftentimes impossible to separate the two. Many of our greatest writers and teachers refer to nature, recognizing the truth and wisdom that is to be gained if we but open our hearts and minds to it. Many of these teachers have been misunderstood as well.

As a very young girl I was a flower child and a natural girl. My first memories as a three-year old are those of standing very still and totally in awe of the tiny butterflies fluttering from flower to flower on my grandfathers butterfly bush. As an adult, the smell of the flowers of the butterfly bush and the quick, excited flight of the tiny butterflies still thrills me. I am still a flower child. However, over the years I have come to appreciate native wild flowers even more then cultivate greenhouse flowers and have many of them growing abundantly on my property as habitat for pollinators.

Two of my favorite wildflowers are the indigenous goldenrods (of which there are about 18 varieties) and the wonderful purple and white asters. Both of these are quite misunderstood and frequently cut down before they have a chance to bear their flowers. They spend the entire spring and summer growing slowly into large, gangly plants, and unless they are growing in a place neglected by human mowers, they are usually weeded out or mowed down.

l see them as elegant and important. I allow my asters to grow through-out the summer in my various gardens. The reward for my patience and tolerance is a glorious, end-of-the-summer profusion of tiny daisy-like flowers, a final burst of white and purple beauty which goes well into the fall, a most welcome source of inspiration before the long, cold days of winter.

Similar to the goldenrods, these wild asters serve as essential nectar for the wild honey bee, whose habitat is diminishing by leaps and bounds. Also, for your information it is ragweed, not goldenrod, which is the foremost cause of hay fever. The pollen of goldenrod is too large to affect most people, though some few are unfortunately allergic to it. Ragweed pollen, on the other hand, is very tiny and quickly creates discomfort. However, even ragweed serves a purpose in the wild, as its seeds are numerous and rich in oil and are an important winter food for song and game birds.

Another one of my favorite though little appreciated wildflowers is the persistent little chicory, shy blue beauties that tend to grow right up against the country roads people drive down in their early morning rush to work or school, gracing our journeys with their joyful blue, brightening our moods if we but see them. Even when they are mowed, they grow right back, undeterred, and where permitted will bloom right through the summer, into fall. They usually close their blue petals during the heat of the day, and so are seen as ugly by some people. They are mostly stem with tiny leaves, and when the flowers are closed, they do look spindly. But oh, when the day is cooler and the flowers open, behold the powdery blue profusion!

The wild white and yellow sweet clovers (which look nothing like clover) bloom spring into summer and are also guilty of gangliness, frequently growing very tall. This year they too grew along the very edge of my road, as if defying me to cut them down. Indeed, I went out one day, fully armed and determined to do just that, only to lose my resolve when I saw them. Yes, they were growing embarrassingly close to the road; but what is more important, the flowers or the road? As I'd observed very few of these particular flowers being permitted to grow anywhere, and as I recognize them to be an essential source of nectar for wild honey bees, l put down my various cutting devices and joined the ranks of the Misunderstood.

I love the late bloomers and the misunderstood ones, be they human or flower. Perhaps our biggest challenge in life is to embrace these ones, to develop compassionate understanding so as not to stand in judgment of them. Much of the beauty and goodness of the natural world will be missed, and lost, if it is constantly condemned as unimportant and destroyed.

T leave you with an ancient Indian quotation which may give you some food for thought: "Flowers are the footprints of the dancing steps of God."

Enjoy the beauty

Read other articles by Christine Maccabee