Copyright © Louis Schmier and Atwood Publishing.

Date: Fri, 24 May 2002 07:39:28 -0400 (EDT)
Random Thought: One More Lesson From My Garden

I was working in my front yard yesterday, whiffing away the gnats, winching at the stinging drops of sweat flowing into my eyes, cursing those featherless south Georgia eagles we call mosquitoes. A car stopped. The driver's window lowered. My neighbor from around the corner leaned out her head out. I stopped and turned towards her.

"Your garden is so beautiful. I do wish all my plants were blooming like yours."

After a brief chat, she drove off. I thought for a moment and looked around my garden. Her definition of beauty was narrow and shallow. It's like judging a person we call a student merely by a grade. Or, judging a person only by a title or position or bank account.

There was a lot of beauty she hadn't noticed and had missed. There were a lot of plants which had already bloomed, a lot of plants budding, a lot of plants which have yet to bud, there were a lot of hidden plants that were mere seedlings, and there were some that lay secretly beneath the surface in the potential of planted seeds.

My neighbor saw beauty only in a blossom. For her my plants' beauty was a snapshot of the past, an image in the preset, or something yet to be. Was the plants' beauty to be understood simply as a matter of having blossomed, blossoming, and yet to blossom? Or, was their beauty always present, and merely in the process of changing form.

After all, what is the bloom without the attached stem and leaves. What are the stem and leaves without the attached roots? What is the plant without the seedling, and the seedling without the seed? What is the seed without the soil?

It seems to me that the beauty of a flower does not merely lie in the bloom anymore than the beauty of a play lies in a catch phrase or a line or a scene anymore than the beauty of a painting lies in a stroke or a particular color or a single image anymore than the beauty of a person lies in a reputation or degree or position or profession or nationality or religion or whatever anymore than the beauty of a student lies in a grade or bestowed honor or GPA.

If beauty, whatever it is, exists in the eyes of the beholder, then the full and true beauty of a garden, or of a plant, or of a poem, or of a painting, or of a person, or of a student lies in seeing all of it, in seeing its complex totality, in seeing it from "all sides," in seeing its giving and receiving contribution, in seeing the life-giving and sustaining processes of life, in seeing growth and change and development, in seeing its intimate wholeness--both seen and unseen, physical and spiritual, actual and potential, snapshot and process, singularly and in community or in a body of work or in a garden.

If we don't, there is a lot of beautiful and meaningful stuff we'll miss.

         Make it a good day.


         Louis Schmier      
         Department of History
         Valdosta State University
         Valdosta, GA  31698                 /~\        /\ /\
         912-333-5947              /^\      /     \    /  /~\  \   /~\__/\
                                 /     \__/         \/  /  /\ /~\/         \
                          /\/\-/ /^\_____\____________/__/_______/^\
                        -_~    /  "If you want to climb mountains,   \ /^\
                         _ _ /      don't practice on mole hills" -    \____

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