“What on earth are you doing?”
The rose bush beside me scolded. She had dropped her foliage and retreated into the ground at the coming frost. Nestled safely in the earth, she snatched what nutrients she could before the soil became dry and lifeless.
I, on the other hand, was not one for cramped spaces. The cold didn’t stop the sun from shining. I dug my roots in and slowly rose.
“It isn’t spring yet,” she grumbled from down below. “And you don’t have any leaves.”
“I know,” I replied undauntedly, stretching a bit more.
There’s something funny about flowers versus weeds. People give roses as gifts, preen and nurture them. Weeds on the other hand are aggressively removed. But now that it was cold, all the living things retreated to warm and cramped places, to return again when the air was sweet and welcoming.
For the rose bush, that meant she would not be tended to, and without attention and care she could not produce roses. The cold made her retract her red petals with nothing around to pollinate them; now she was just a mass of hideous thorns.
I, on the other hand, could do without the attention. I sprouted up laboriously until I reached my peak, summoning my round golden flower and spreading the petals proudly.
“What are you trying to prove? You’re a weed, a stupid dandelion, and nobody thinks you’re beautiful.”
I didn’t care what she said. It’s stressful to be beautiful, as the constant fear of wilting goes hand in hand with the fear of death. Beyond that vibrant facade there are only thorns being disguised by that bright demeanor. I am what I am, there is no illusion. A dandelion, a little golden flower, modest and robust and not afraid of the cold. I love the sun in all conditions; the wind, rain and frost won’t change that.
And being ugly isn’t terrible. I suppose many prefer not to look at me, but in a wide meadow I can be left to my devices with my other golden friends. They’re somewhere far away, but when I’m ready I’ll throw my seeds into the wind and find them all again.
The concept of beauty is so harsh. There are days I do feel I would rather be a rose, but I won’t miraculously become one so I may as well accept what I am. In the end, I don’t mind, as it means I’ll be strong enough to survive the winter. I’ll get to see beautiful things: falling red and orange autumn leaves. Fine, white powder snow. Young children playing, swaddled in thick knit clothes. Kindling flames from new love that comes from being kept close indoors. Scents seeping from kitchen windows of spices and seasonal treats.
And when it’s warm again, my friend the rose bush will have missed these things. She’s blind to real beauty, I think, as are many of the perennials.
Discouraged as I may become when I peek at my reflection in a frozen puddle, I cannot – I will not change. I am not “beautiful”, but what is beauty but a color? Beauty in my world is life and the longing to live it. The breath from every lung, the pulse of every vein and the blood in every heart. The flickering wings of a dragonfly, the silken web of a spider and the chiming sound of a cricket. The deep pupils of the open eyes that silently oberve the world in different spectrums. The morning sun and the hope of a fresh new day.
And the smile, of course, that you push to the surface when it’s cold, when you’re tired, when the world around is harsh.
We are not all roses, but we can choose to be strong and bloom anyways.