The Perspective of a Pansy

The Perspective of a Pansy

From Chicken Soup for the Grandma's Soul

The Perspective of a Pansy

What we call wisdom is the result of all the wisdom of past ages.

Henry Ward Beecher

In Atlanta we have the luxury of planting pansies in the fall and viewing their curious faces all winter long. That is how my grandma described their blooms, as faces. She was right. If you look into a pansy’s velvet petals you can see its eager expression peeking out at you. It was my grandmother’s love for this flower that drew me to Viola tricolor hortensis when I was a little girl. My favorites were the white petals with purple centers, or “faces.” They remain my favorite flowers today.

Since pansies are annuals, last year’s flowers had long since died and been pulled from the ground, never to be seen again. I hadn’t taken the time to plant even one flat of pansy seedlings that fall. Actually, I hadn’t found the time to do much of anything but work since September. My job had become especially demanding due to a project that required me to fly weekly to Washington, DC. Between airports, delayed flights, cancellations, taxicabs, trains and countless hotel rooms, I hadn’t spent enough time with my husband, hadn’t returned phone calls from my parents, hadn’t sent birthday cards to my dearest friends, hadn’t taken the necessary time to come to terms with the death of my grandma and certainly hadn’t made time to put pansies in the ground.

Perhaps by skipping the whole pansy planting process that autumn I was putting off facing the reality that Grandma, the only grandparent I had ever known, had died.

My connection between her and the flowers was so strong. I told myself I was too busy for gardening so many times that I convinced myself it was true.

As I drove home from the airport one chilly November evening, I was overwhelmed by an empty pang in my heart. It had begun as a slight ache and built up to a deep, hollow throb after five straight days of deadlines, lists, conference calls and meetings. I hadn’t allowed any time for myself, to read, to visit with friends and family or even to pray. I had tried to ignore this vacuous feeling. I had just kept going and going, like a robot following programmed commands, forgetting about all of the things in life that gave me deeper meaning. The pain was especially great this particular evening due to a canceled flight that delayed my getting home until long after my lonely husband was already in bed.

After fighting eight lanes of stop-and-go traffic for over an hour, caused by what appeared to be a fatal accident, I arrived frazzled and tired in my suburban neighborhood. As I pulled into my driveway, my headlights shone into the empty flowerbeds. I glimpsed something white resting on the ground. I parked my car in the garage and walked around to the front yard to collect what I assumed was a piece of garbage to throw away. But I did not find trash. Instead I found a lone white pansy with a purple face flourishing by itself in a barren bed of pine straw.

The determined flower had fought all odds to spring from a ripped-up root, which is not bred for regrowth, to return another year. It didn’t seem possible, and maybe it wasn’t. Yet here was a perfect pansy grinning at me and asking me from its remarkable face why I too couldn’t break through the dirt and let myself bloom.

Touching that flower, I knew this was Grandma’s way of letting me know that although she had left this earth, she wasn’t really gone. Just like the pansy that had been pulled from the soil yet was still blossoming, my grandmother’s spirit would always flourish inside my heart. I sighed, recalling that Grandma would have never put work first. Her family and friends were the priorities in her world. She didn’t know the meaning of timetables or deadlines. Although her life was simple, she was always happy and saw only the good in others and the beauty in the world around her.

It was time to open my heart and my eyes to the important things around me, to fill up the empty hole inside me with the nourishment that only God, family and friends could give me. Work could wait. Life, as the pansy showed me, could not.

Laura L. Smith

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