Copyright © Louis Schmier and Atwood Publishing.

Date: Fri 7/16/2004 3:53 AM
Random Thought: "I Don't Like Camelias"

Can you believe it. Here I am, sitting on pins and needles waiting for the arrival of Jaqueline Danielle, our third grand-daughter, and I'm thinking about the forlorn, neglected camillias in the front yard. It's one of those time you just don't ask. I never think of my camillias, except when I have less than nice thoughts about cutting them down or "accidentally" killing them. Maybe it's the remnants of conversations about some attitudes towards disadvantaged students I had with some neat people during that workshop on learning communities that I presented a workshop this past Monday in Miami. Anyway, about the camillias. It wasn't that I chose to plant the camellias. I had no choice except what to do with them. When we moved into the house thirty some odd years ago, they were just there in the front yard. Two flanking the entrance to the house; four acting as an eastern border to our property.

As I developed my green thumb, it didn't extend to the camillias. I "grrrrrred" at them. I don't know why. I just wasn't grabbed by them and I didn't allow myself to grab them. "I don't like camellias" meant "I won't accept them into my garden." It translated into "I won't do what it takes to nurture them." It meant "I'm not going out of my way for them." Every time I saw them, I would do everything I could to ignore them. My hands would clench into fists of frustration. For me, they were a blight on the beauty that I was creating. I've had interesting discussions with my defending, Green Party Susan about cutting them down. And, I've lost every one of them.

You know blinding, deafening, and paralyzing a "grrrrrr" and clenched fist can be? A grimacing "grrrrrrr" won't let you smile. A clenched fist won't allow you to offer or accept an open, helping hand? Did you know that love measures our stature? The more we love, the bigger our heart, the bigger we are. Someone once said that there is no smaller package in all the world than that of a person wrapped up in him/herself. Boy, when it came to camillias was I wrapped up in myself. It was more about me than them. I didn't bother to prune them as they should have been pruned. I didn't bother to spray the leaves with an oil to protect them against fungus or spray a chewing tobbacco concoction against white flies. And, when the leave got spotted, "white flyish," cankered, brown, or wilt, I say to my environmentist Susan with a pointing finger of blame, "See, those camillas are dirty, ugly things, ugh. They've got to go." Didn't work.

Then, this morning I imagined myself as a camellia. Mysterious. "What if I could see me?" I asked myself. "If camellias could have eyes, how would I look? What would I see?" So, I looked sharply. Not a pretty picture: ugly, uncaring, unsmiling, combative, unloving, unappreciating, disrespectful, distant, and cold. It's startling how I looked to me when I looked at me with the frightened, disregarded eyes of a camillia.

I look as ugly to the camillas as they look to me. I saw an inner wilt that was expressed in my disdain. My attitude toward camellias boomeranged right back to me. And yet, I always say that each flower is unique. When we compare a rose with an autumn rudbekia or an echinecea or a camillia in terms of more or less beautiful, we're messing with Mother Nature's agenda. For in that comparison, there are the "winners" and the "losers," the tended and the discarded, the noticed and the ignored, the "beautiful" and the "not so beautiful" or the "not beautiful." Yet, each flower is a vehicle for awakening. We should treat each carefully as such.

The next time, starting todya, I start to complain about camellias, I won't listen to me. "Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrs" will be replaced by "aaaaaahs," fists with handshakes. I'll not plant those pessimistic seeds in me and nurture them into strangling vines. It's easy to be critical of those camillias and make them feel unwanted. Anyone can do it. It doesn't take a drop of sweat or an ounce of energy. What does take effort, time, and skill is nurturing them. I should have known better. The exuberance of life, any and all life, is manifested in the decision to plant and nurture, to work and create, to rejoice and dance. It changes the person into an "entheos," that is, someone inhabited by Nature's excitement. Nothing great and truly creative is ever achieved without such a powerful influence. The next time I feel a whine coming on I'll have to concede that it's all about me and nothing about the camellias.

As a gardener, I can tell you that sometimes you have to rake through a lot of winter's mulch to find that sprout in Spring. Each sprout is good. Each is great. Each discovered seedling should be welcomed, for each is a messenger of hope. And, each day in the garden is both good and great. Each flower can help you acquire a pure awareness and a bold alertness. You have to feel as if you are an adjunct of each flower's presence as if each flower was speaking on your behalf with Mother Nature. I'm reminded of something Rumi wrote. To play on his words, a garden is never quiet, with all the messages coming through. It's merely a matter of being aware what messages of hope are springing up from each and every individual flower in the garden all around you. If you walk through a garden, not noticing all the hopeful sounds in the garden, for you, at best, the message is incomplete. If you ignore all the hopeful sounds, it is a dead place.

There's a lesson here for all of us teachers. Teaching, like gardening that draws us in to look deeply at ourselves and others is spiritual. Such gardening, like such teaching, accepts all the pests and diseases and wilting. With time and effort, with love, with faith and hope and belief the teacher, like the gardener, transforms each and every flower of a student into affirmations of beauty, and discovers that each is no less than greatness.

My camellias just helped me help myself in the continuance of my awakening. Starting today, they'll bring life into what was otherwise an unadmitted dead spot. It's a lesson that spills over onto my campus, for it's not any different with each and every student.

Telephone just rang. Got more to say, but Jaqueline is on her way. Susan's grabbing at me. Gotta run to the hospital with my camera!

         Make it a good day.


         Louis Schmier      
         Department of History
         Valdosta State University
         Valdosta, GA  31698                 /~\        /\ /\
         912-333-5947              /^\      /     \    /  /~\  \   /~\__/\
                                 /     \__/         \/  /  /\ /~\/         \
                          /\/\-/ /^\_____\____________/__/_______/^\
                        -_~    /  "If you want to climb mountains,   \ /^\
                         _ _ /      don't practice on mole hills" -    \____

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