My trek to and from work everyday is not often filled with things of beauty. I live in a downtown metropolitan area and am confronted, on a daily basis, by the seedier side of human exsistence. I have seen human excrement on the sidewalk. I have seen a man urinating on the side of a library. Drivers, already late for work, have almost run me down in the cross walk and then screamed obscenities at me for being in their way. A homeless man, searching for warmth and rest, occasionally lies on a grate in the sidewalk. Tired women, working two jobs, enjoy the wait at the bus stop, because it means they can sit and rest for a bit.You get the idea. People struggle to exsist here. We all do.
It was a pleasant surprise, then, when I came home from work one spring afternoon, and found that a landscaping company hired by the management group of my apartment building, had planted pansies by the front and back doors of my building. I love pansies. Known scientifically as viola x witterockiana, they are small delicate looking flowers that bloom in the spring and then again in the late fall. Their velvety yellow and burgandy blooms, brightened my day considerably adding an aire of beauty and tenderness in a world lacking both. I enjoyed them all summer and autumn long. The blooms lasted well into the beginning of winter. However, after one particularly cold night, the plants withered and fell to the ground and when I left my building the next morning, I was devastated by the sight of them lying there.
The snow and ice came and covered the ground completely. I enjoyed its pristine beauty for about a day, and then it started turning grey, and ugly, and left me feeling depressed and almost hostile. Snow doesn’t stay pretty very long in the city and loses its appeal rather quickly. At that time, winter becomes a “bone aching” period when the hope of spring and summer seems very distant. Time passes slowly and after a few weeks, the snow and ice started to melt. I could still see the blooms of the pansies laying there on the ground.’Spring will come,’ I kept telling myself, but, I wasn’ t sure that the pansies would survive.
The days gradually began to get warmer. In mid February, I came home one day and one of the pansies was standing up again. Bravely, it raised its “face” to the sun to capture every bit of that warmth that it could. I was stunned! I thought pansies were delicate flowers! I had, on more than one occasion, heard the word “pansy” used to describe a person who was weak. Each day, more and more pansies resurrected themselves and by mid March, the whole bed was a riotous splash of yellow, burgundy, and green that once more brightened my corner of the world. I thought about how the pansy had struggled for exsistence and my thoughts went back to the people of the city and how they struggled in their own exsistence.
How “we” struggle for exsistence, because everyone struggles. Humans can be wilted and beaten down by the heavy “snow and ice” of life just as well as those pansies had. Somehow, we have to find, within ourselves, the strength to raise our selves up and draw what nourishement we can from the cold soil we are planted in. How do we do that? By finding joy in everything we do. By offering kindness, when someone hurts. By offering warmth when someone is cold. By appreciating the gentle curve of an arch shining against a brilliant blue sky. By smiling when we see a small girl riding her Big Wheel with its handle streamers fluttering in the air behind her.
When we fill ourselves with this nourishment, then we overflow to the world around us as offer our faces to the sun. I am the pansy.