When I was a child,my mother had the most beautiful peony bushes in the county. The huge, superb, pompoms of white, pink, and burgundy, spectacularly embraced an entire corner of our yard. When the breeze came to dance among the blooms their intoxicating aroma beckoned with a long finger that reached all the way into the house.
In May when the honey scented peonies bloomed in concert with the fragrant lilacs, dozens were gathered and brought into the house. For weeks, every room of our house brimmed with blooms. Any container that could hold water was temporarily transformed into a vase.
After the flowers gave up their velvety petals they were made to last a bit longer when gathered into several wicker baskets to dry. These dried petals made excellent potpourri to be enjoyed during the cold winter months.
Each year progressed this way until one summer when no one seemed to have time to tend the peonies after they bloomed. Vicious weeds crept into the bushes and soon the normally well-tended corner of our garden was a thicket of neglect.
One evening, after the supper dishes had been cleared, my father and I went outside to play catch. His faded overalls showed the wear of hard work as he stretched to throw the ball in my direction. As I tossed the ball back to Dad, my cat, Inky, startled me as she twirled herself between my bare feet. I threw the ball wildly as chills spiraled from my ankles to the nape of my neck. The large, red orb darted past my father and landed in the overgrown corner of the yard.
Dad retrieved the ball and tossed it in my direction, then silently walked to the garage and returned with the faded green lawn mower. With a cough and a sputter, the metal beast roared to life and Dad attacked Moms peony patch. He pulled and he pushed until he had consumed every square inch leaving no stem more than an inch tall.
I watched in horror as Dad placed the machine back into the garage. Didnt he know just how heartbroken Mom would be when she discovered her flowers of spring had been destroyed?
I did not question Dad about his actions but merely followed him inside the house as the once brilliant, now dim, sunset signaled my bedtime. All night I thought Dad must not have remembered that those peonies were planted, years ago, by my grandmother. I thought of how disappointed everyone would be next spring when the lilacs bloomed unaccompanied. But Dad knew something that I did not.
The following April, I tagged along as Mom checked on springs progress in reclaiming our property. We picked at the daffodils that peeked through the cool earth and peeled a few lilac buds to see how soon we could expect the tiny fragrant flowers.
Then Mom walked toward for her favorite corner of the yard. She bend over the area where the peonies had been ravaged so many months before.
Veronica, look at these bushes, Mom exclaimed.
I though she was joking. Surely there was nothing to look at. As she rose and walked towards the house she called out, I think well have a bountiful crop this year.
Puzzled, I slowly turned and looked down at ground. I saw hundreds of tiny red and green sprouts fueled by the warmth of spring, reaching up to kiss the sun.
That year the peony bushes were the best in memory. The neighbors shook their heads and declared that Mom sure knew the secret to tending flowers.
I can still recall the sweet aroma of the pinks that scented my room.
A few ago I planted my own peony bushes. I, too, am learning the lessons of nature. There is a time for growing, a time for blooming and a time for harvesting. There is even a time for mowing down the weeds and starting over again.
So it is with people, who, like peonies, are firmly rooted in soil. We must grow, bloom and sometimes start over again when our lives have become tangled in weeds. The results can be amazing.