Clipping the Peonies

I saw the buds fighting their way through the overgrown weeds in the front yard. This is our first year in our new home and everything is a surprise; the sometimes-leaky sink, the gun closet turned spice rack in the mudroom, and my favorite, the perennials finally making an appearance after a long, lifeless winter. I like to imagine the person who planted them in the first place however many years ago. It’s like an unopened gift waiting for you at the beginning of spring.

So anyway, the buds. Since my floral expertise is as extensive as a vegetarian’s interest in the angus beef market, let’s just say I had no idea what was about to pop out of those things. Could they be roses? Maybe a tulip or two? (Are those two things even perennials?)

What I did know was that peonies, those big fluffy pink tissue paper flowers, are just about my favorite plant to ever have graced this planet. In fact, the level at which I love those things may be clinically suspicious. So you can imagine my overwhelming delight when those buds started to pop open and I realized that, yes, in fact, we had peonies! Sweet Jesus thank you Lord. Miracles do happen.

We have just a few in our yard…maybe three or four. But the neighbor’s yard…oh, the neighbor’s yard was full of them; big and pink and beautiful. Admittedly, I’ve schemed a time or two a plan to clip a few from their yard…they’ll never notice, right? Okay, sorry, bad neighbor. So bad. But still, I schemed. I think Jeremy finally reached a breaking point with the crazy flower lady talk because yesterday he finally said something. He said for one, they are the neighbor’s flowers. Whether or not they’re home, snatching flowers from their yard probably doesn’t give off a very good “new neighbor vibe.” And second, those flowers are part of nature. What makes me think that I need to put them in the house in order to enjoy them? Why do I think they belong to me anyway? Okay mister preacher husband, okay. You might have some solid truths there.

What a struggle we have comparing ourselves to our (non-literal) neighbors sometimes, right? In life and business and all the rest of it, when it comes down to it, we just want to be better, more successful, and more known than the person next to us. We want our proud moments clipped and arranged in a vase, front and center for everyone to see. And the hardest part for me…sometimes we claim ownership over something that just isn’t ours to own. It may not be our fruit to bear. It may just be something to appreciate for what it is as a distant admirer.

There are time I so badly want to be something I’m not, experience someone else’s successes, bear the fruit that someone else is bearing, slap my name on a skill or ability that just isn’t mine to claim. I miss out on the chance to just appreciate and admire other’s work and the beauty of all the creativity that surrounds me.

Admiring the peonies means we say “good for her” instead of “wish it were me”. Leaving the flowers right where they are means we say “what a beautiful piece of work” instead of “I should do that, too.”

When we let it go, when we admire from a distance, when we stop wanting everything we don’t have, we are recognizing that creativity and beauty exists apart from ourselves. Sometimes we get to be part of that story and sometimes we get to be mere admirers of the abundance of it in this world.

I’m tempted to still clip a few peonies from our own yard, but maybe this year I’ll just leave them. Maybe this year, this season, is for learning how to be a mere admirer.