Wise Musings From an Old Rose

Hank Mattimore
November 4 2012
Reproduced with Permission

I paused to look at one of the last roses of the season the other day. The old girl was at the end of her journey. Her once brilliant red had faded to pink; most of her proud petals were strewn on the earth from which she had sprung. She looked sort of lost and abandoned. I thought of O'Henry's poignant story of the "Last Leaf." I wanted to ask this forlorn rose what she was thinking. Was she sad to be bidding adieu to her life on earth? I wanted to engage her in conversation. After all, we were two living beings, both of a certain age, sharing the same earth. Ah, if only we could talk.

Of course, the truth is that roses and all living things have been "talking" to us for eons. Plants and flowers do communicate with us non-verbally. Roses communicate most obviously through sight and smell. Their vibrant colors are a feast to our eyes, and their delicate scent has enriched our environment. What one of us has not sometime in the course of his life bent down to smell a rose? What poet or songwriter can resist putting words to pen trying his best to describe the beauty, the wonder of a rose?

Sometimes I envy the single-mindedness of the rose. Rising from mother earth, she is sure of what is expected of her. She will bud into a gorgeous creation, seducing the bees and butterflies with her sweet nectar so that they will go out and increase and multiply the species. And as she goes about fulfilling her destiny, she creates beauty and fills the air with her aroma. Then she dies, leaving behind as a parting gift, tasty rose hips to nourish the plants and animals who have shared her life.

There is a part of me that envies the sure path of my sister, the rose. Would that I could be as certain of my path through life and as content with my life. Instead, I worry about stuff, and make mistakes and wish I could have better health and that I were more open to change. I wish that I had spent more time telling my kids that I love them and that I had saved more money for my old age. Blah! Blah! Blah!

But as I wrestle with the "woulda, coulda, shouldas" of my life, I swear that I hear the old rose mocking me. "Hey, you're old enough to know better. Don't you get it yet that none of us created beings are perfect? Roses, humans, locusts, we are all flawed in some way. Just be glad you're alive. None of your anxieties amount to anything compared to the awesome beauty of life itself. Be grateful for life, for friends for family for the wonder of creation.

I thought I was crazy standing there listening to a flower lecture me. But I had to admit, she was making sense. I continued walking down the street with a little more spring in my step. Then I heard a far off voice coming from where I had seen the rose saying "Hey, old buddy. You're okay. Just don't forget to smell the roses."