Stop and Smell the Roses

“But listen to me. For one moment quit being sad. Hear blessing dropping their blossoms around you.”—Rumi


“There are always flowers for those who want to see them.”—Henri Matisse


My Dad, Step-mom, Pam, and I were standing on the sidewalk outside of a quaint, downtown artisan shopping area of Huntington, WV, known as Heritage Station, a former B & O train station. It was a grey, chilly day, and we had just enjoyed breakfast in a charming coffee shop/diner. We were in the midst of saying our goodbyes when an unknown, well-dressed, young lady approached us rather quickly with her arms full of parcels.


“Would you watch these for me, please, while I run inside?”


Without hesitation, we agreed, and she quickly placed down two boxes of beautifully arranged roses, a bottle of wine, and two glasses. She rapidly walked away, the irony of her rhythmic clickety-clack shoes were not lost me as we stood near an old train engine staring at the stunning bouquets in front of us.


Pam and I immediately began smelling and gently touching the fragrant petals. We were careful not to disturb the actual arrangements, as it was clear these flowers were for a special occasion.


The nameless female remained away for several minutes while the three of us continued to admire the brilliant garnet and snowy-white roses, mixed with an unknown multi-petaled crimson flower, and surrounded by varying shades of greenery. The vividness of these flowers was such a stark contrast to the overcast day surrounding us. I felt the gnawing tickle within the recesses of my brain sensing there was a lesson here for me to unearth; but it would take months for my heart to understand the divinely inspired message.


When my daughter was quite young, she would wake up fully charged and ready to go. Every day was an adventure for which she eagerly embraced. Even before eating breakfast and getting dressed, she would run about the house in her pajamas on those pint-sized legs full of energy, brimming with a perpetual smile, incessant talk, and an easy to find giggle. As the day progressed, it didn’t matter how neatly she was dressed, or how tidily I fixed her hair, by day’s end, her clothes were rumpled and stained while her hair was tousled and wildly flowing. This was because she whole-heartedly threw herself into engagement with any activity or person that came her way. It didn’t matter if was rainy, sunny, snowy, cloudy, spring, or fall—she loved life.   And while, I rarely got the stains out of her clothes, I savored her enthusiastic, radiant energy even if it did wear me out at times. I often wished I could bottle up her spirit and inject it into others, including myself, during moments of difficulty.

My daughter was not old enough to have created stories in her mind. You know, the on-going loop that often plays in our heads. Stories such as, “I’m such a klutz;’ “I never do anything right;’ “I’m not good enough;” “They don’t like me;” “Today is a bad day;” “I have so much to do;” “I’m poor, rich, fat, skinny, ugly, pretty . . ..” The story titles are endless. And, if you’re like me, the “story” frequently plays like a broken record in the mind repeating the same line over and over.


Recently, I encountered another gorgeous array of roses and multi-petaled flowers, only this time it was in the midst of a setting in which the majority of people were teary-eyed and sad. Suddenly, it hit me. We are all meant to be roses for one another in the garden of life.


We were divinely created by the one true Gardner to bud, bloom, and blossom while our feet are planted on this earthen soil. Therefore, from day to day and from situation to situation, we are often called upon to roll up our proverbial sleeves and get a little dirty, to engage with others, to offer a smile (or even a giggle) to another being, or to remain open to the possibilities, shifts, and changes in the day in a manner similar to which my daughter embraced life when she was a toddler.


Like the roses in the bouquets; we are individually layered with petals of beauty—think of them as gifts or talents. From the person who adds order to a house, office, or building by cleaning it, to the stylist who cuts and/or colors hair; from the garbage collector that keeps our surroundings clean; to the office administrator who contributes a seamlessly streamlined sense of organization—we are all created to add color and wonder to this world. Perhaps, then, we might want to consider acknowledging and honoring our Supreme gardener with words of thanksgiving and appreciation on a regular basis.


As I type these words, I am writing to myself as much as I am you, Dear Reader, because I, too, get wrapped up in my own head of narration. Frequently, I read suggestions regarding the practice of keeping a gratitude journal—which is an excellent and positive practice—as a way to refocus the lens of the mind. In fact, I have tried to keep one on several occasions, but have never fully made it a habit. Therefore, I am challenging myself, and you too, with the following notions.


  1. Recognize when you have drifted off into story-land. Then, gently remind yourself that just as the gray clouds covered the sunshine on that autumn day with Dad and Pam, it doesn’t mean the sun wasn’t present.
  2. Reframe the story. “Yes, I am often klutzy, but look at all the wonderful movements my body is capable of doing;” or, “Yes, this day seems challenging, but I can take it one step at a time.”
  3. Recognize and state in that moment of your story-loop at least one event, thing, or person for which you are grateful, such as “I am grateful for my morning coffee.” “I am thankful for my car that transported me safely to work.” “I appreciate the unexpected and thoughtful text I received from a friend this morning.”


There is a saying about taking time to smell the roses that is well-worth remembering. So often, however, we focus solely on the daily thorns and irritations of life, rather than notice all numerous positives that also occurred. Although mindfully attempting to interrupt our monkey-minds of stories a few times per day with moments of gratitude may not eliminate life’s thorns; it might, however, offer a bit more perspective, allowing us to navigate those sharp, negative events with a little more grace and ease, and serve as a reminder that life is as short as the rose bud. And, in the end, when we look at roses, it is the bright blooms we first notice and appreciate, not the thorns.




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