Adapted from Gayle’s March 2016 Flower Communion talk.
“Nobody sees a flower really; it is so small. We haven’t time, and to see takes time – like to have a friend takes time.”
– Georgia O’Keeffe
I was especially saddened by news last week of the suicide of my friend’s son, Edward. He was 25.
I myself suffered from depression when I was in my mid-twenties. Fortunately for me, it was very trendy for psychology graduate students to seek therapy at the Student Counseling Center in a little house on the edge of the UNH campus. I was assigned to Mrs. Greenleaf (very auspicious name) – a warm and insightful therapist.
Our weekly conversations led me to accept myself as someone who was loving and who deserved love, regardless of my childhood experiences to the contrary. I began to accept my own worth and believe in the prospect of a good future and eventually a family of my own. Accordingly, after about five or six sessions, we agreed that I no longer needed therapy. I remember leaving the counseling center, feeling much lighter and happier than I had first entered it some weeks before.
But my transformation was not quite complete…it was waiting for me two blocks away.
I started walking to my apartment in an old farmhouse and was nonchalantly sauntering down the sidewalk, as I had repeatedly for over a year. I was suddenly captivated by something a few feet ahead – something bright yellow and green – sticking up right out of the concrete sidewalk.
“What can this be?” I stopped and looked closely and discovered a small flower I had never noticed before. In that moment, I considered it the most beautiful blossom I had ever seen. I bent down even closer to look more carefully. It looked like a snapdragon, with a pale yellow hood, and a darker yellow almost orange center. Later I discovered it was yellow toadflax, commonly called “butter and eggs”. And it’s considered an invasive weed by most. But to me on that blessed day, it stood there gleaming like a little sun on Garrison Avenue.
“How could I have missed seeing something so beautiful for so long?” I looked more then resumed walking, but now much more slowly. I was wondering, What else had I been missing all this time? It was as if the proverbial veil had been lifted from my eyes. The entire world was shimmering with beauty – the lush grass, the emerald trees, the glowing faces of people walking by. I felt more awake than I had ever felt in my entire life. With each step, I drank in this amazing world.
And that revelation has stayed with me for forty years: We live in an astonishingly beautiful world, one in which even things that might seem small and insignificant can reveal great splendor – if we take the time to appreciate them.
Of course, in a garden we might notice first the show-stopping flowers – the elegant roses, the lavish peonies, or perhaps the delicate lilies. Yet the smaller, less obvious blossoms that get overlooked have their own merit. I have learned that this is true not only of flowers, but also of people. Even tiny flowers, like the mayflower or the violet, have their unique worth and beauty.
Over time, I have come to understand what Confucius meant when he said, “Everything has beauty, but not everyone sees it.” Or as Georgia O’Keeffe wrote, “Nobody sees a flower really; it is so small. We haven’t time, and to see takes time – like to have a friend takes time.”
My intention is to take the time – time to look for the beauty in everything and everyone.