Winter has settled in with a vengeance, here in the high desert. Cold, dry, biting winds swirl the snow, drop it, then pick it up again and sweep it into new drifts. Constant shimmering movement of snow on ground, and white ghosts dancing their way in eddies over the eaves. Autumn leaves now skitter about the yard playing tag with snow drifts. The shrubs are barren against the icy ground, huddled in growing mounds of snow. The wind urges its way through the storm windows in whining moans and sorrowful howls.
The flowers mostly gave up blooming weeks ago with the first frosts, slowly easing their life back into the earth. Yet today I found flowers blooming, barely peeking above the snow! Violet and Gold petals spark against each other, each brightening the other. The tender Pansies, among the first flowers to bloom last spring, toughed their way through late spring frosts, their stems stiffening against the incessant wind, through hot, dry summer heat, through autumn frosts, and even into the recent days and nights of Siberian blast. They were not just surviving - they were thriving. Now they are beginning to peacefully let go, fading into sleep. I shall miss them.
It gives me pause to reclaim a name I shunned as a child and youth: P~A~N~S~Y! Just the way it was twisted out of kids' mouths made it sound pathetic. It sent shudders of horror and shame through my soul. I wasn't trying to be any kind of flower - I was just being me. Supposedly one was a pansy if he was not tough enough, nor bold enough, nor strong enough (nor mean enough?) to satisfy those around him. A painful word to have flung at a child, incongruous with the delicate beauty of the flower.
I see now that I should have felt it a great compliment. The delicate Pansies bloom first and die last, facing multitudes of challenges along the way, ever the stronger for them. They survive through spring frosts. They bless us with delicate fragrances and smiling faces during warm summer days. They push their roots deep, mining for water during late summer heat. They have a second “peak” bloom during cooler autumn days, and respond to the hardships of early winter by continuing to bloom defiantly.
I think of the Trevor Project and the "It Gets Better" campaign, designed to give encouragement and help to youth who are about to lose hope because of homophobic abuse they suffer daily at home and/or school. The world seems to have ganged up on them, beating all hope and joy and life out of their souls. They are like the Pansies in my spring garden; they are young and may not see that they have a lifetime ahead of them when they will bloom and thrive, and their fragrant beauty will enrich the world around them.
I am so very glad that I lived to see those better days. I pray that these tender ones may also survive the spring frosts and winds and come to enjoy the exuberance of summer bloom, when they will hold their own with all the other flowers in the garden. Like good gardeners, we should care for them until the day comes when we can sit back and enjoy their fragrant summer beauty. I pray that they will get to live full lives, and die in quiet dignity at the end, in the winter, content with the lives they enjoyed, and with the beauty and joy they shared with the world.