A Rose By Any Other Name Would Smell As Sweet

I’ve worked in the same small town outside of Pittsburgh for 15 years. imageMany lunch breaks I’ve spent strolling the sidewalks for some exercise and stress relief, a welcome  break from my computer.

Three-story Victorians line the streets, with their brightly-colored trim and decorative screen doors. American flags hang patriotically, displayed from front porches, and seasonal wreaths welcome guests with warmth and genuine hospitality.

The local folks inevitably add a charm and character to this “Small Town, America.”  Mr. Sweet, who champions the stray cat population, gets on a bus every day to make his way to the store and back for peanuts to feed the squirrels. He then dutifully treks many blocks, placing a handful of treats here or there, and when you pass by you know that Mr. Sweet has been about.

Donny, the mailman, runs races with his car at area tracks. He always has something uplifting to say, and prays for those in our workplace. He asks about our families, and periodically drops off a bag of mints at the office for my daughter to enjoy.

imageThe local druggist, and dentist, both call out my name and give me a friendly wave as I pass by them on the town’s old-timey brick streets. Sometimes it still amazes me that they know me by name.

But one of my favorite residents in town is my endearing friend, and fellow gardener, Rose. She won’t divulge her age (a woman’s perogative!) but is clearly well into her 80’s. She has a charming sassiness and determination about her.

I’ve admired the wild look of perennial flowers, spilling through the wrought iron fence, that surrounds her lovely little Tudor style home. For many years I’ve watched her sweep the sidewalks and lovingly care for her small space outdoors. Always in her signature  blue “house coat” with rubber Wellies and black stockings. Each time I’d spy her I couldn’t help but feel as if I’d been transported to rural England. With straw broom or weed bucket in hand Rose was ready to take on the garden. Clearly in her element.

This spring, after planting my own perennial gardens (in hopes of someday having that lovely look of cascading flowers spilling from my own railings), I finally decided that it was time to call out a neighborly hello. I’m so glad that I did. I’ve come to find out many things about Rose over these past months. She lets me pick her brain willingly about gardening tips and varieties of flowers. She loves to talk about her perennials!

Rose is maintaining the gardens that were started by her parents, when she was a child, growing up in that same house. She makes a point to keep the same varieties of flowers that they grew, and pours over old photos of her parents and home to recreate what once was there. The last time I saw her she was eking out a space for planting some lovely blue Morning Glories to trail along the sturdy fence at the south side of her compact yard. She had recently unearthed a time-worn sepia-colored photo of her father, standing in that very spot, surrounded by the prolific blooms of a by-gone Morning Glory. She relayed this information to me with the reminiscent glow of sweet family  memories.

Rose’s mission, to recreate the gardens  once thought-out and executed by her mother and father all those years ago, has resulted in a delightful mix of vibrant life that surrounds her home, keeping her heart young and her mind spry with the memories of how things used to be. An era when people made time to stop and tarry on a garden path surrounded by vibrant mounds of color, softly dancing on a much anticipated summer breeze.

I can’t think of a more fitting way to find peace for my soul than by strolling along such a garden path and reflecting on life, love, and God’s provision. It’s undoubtedly a call for my spirit to slow down its pace and appreciate what’s around me instead of running through my days, to-do list in hand, checking off menial tasks as I go. Let’s each take the time to slow our pace today and breathe in the goodness that surrounds us. Wherever we are.


Living Simply overlook
<em>Overlooking the valley</em>

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