It really is

A red Bromeliad at the U.S. Botanic Garden, Washington, DC, April 2014

A red bromeliad at the U.S. Botanic Garden, Washington, DC, April 2014

“Life is like a flower. You don’t realize how beautiful it really is until you take a closer look.” — Ash Sweeney

I wasn’t able to find out anything much about Ash Sweeney other than endless web pages citing quotes from him (or her) such as this one.  Perhaps Sweeney is a robot, or a pen name, or an urban legend.  But truth can be found in the most unlikely places, and this quote appeals to me as one who loves both flowers and life more than some people seem to understand.

The analogy is simple, but it holds up in many respects.  How often do we rush past a single flower, impressed only by a display of them in masses?  How many tiny wildflowers do we disregard every day, simply because they are generally not considered valuable?  Are we suitably amazed at the variety of shapes, colors and sizes to be found and enjoyed? Do we realize how much it might elevate our moods if we paused to appreciate at least one or two live flowers each day? Are flowers more beautiful individually, or when combined into a gorgeous bouquet?  Or is each presentation equally beautiful in its own way?

Life really is stunningly beautiful.  That’s not to say it’s always easy, pretty, appealing, refreshing or even profound, though it is all of those things at various times, to varying degrees.  Very few among us willingly part with the enormous gift of time on this planet that we are allowed to spend, to at least some degree, as we choose.  No matter how hard it gets (and for far too many, it’s harder than we can imagine) the human spirit still yearns to survive here as long as possible.

Some believe this life is all there is, and some of us– count me in this group– believe it’s only a passage to another, more eternal destination.  But I’ve noticed that folks in both groups want to extend our time here on planet Earth as much as we can.  I think that’s an indication that the loveliness is always there, even when it is distorted by ugliness or hidden by apathy.

Look closely today, at a flower, and at life, and be blessed by an understanding of the beauty of both.


  1. HarryS

    I watched an interview with Tony Dorsett yesterday afternoon and he brings us the sad news of probable onset of chronic traumatic brain syndrome resulting from concussions. He says he is noticing that when he decides to go somewhere that he perfectly well knows the way to he can’t remember how to get there. How distressing!

    Football; worth it?
    It’s that insatiable appetite for something exciting and believe me the exhilaration of seeing grown men hurling their bodies at each other is becoming more and more irksome.

    And certainly everyone wants to do something about this, even the owners for their own reasons.

    I rank this report from Tony Dorsett as number two in the sad news rankings for I think that number one would have to be his reply to the question, “Would you do all this again? “
    He quickly replied, “Yes”.

    Would I do everything that I did that brought on lifelong undesirable consequences undeniably because of chasing some kind of pleasure?

    What would God’s answer to this question be?

    Could it be that each and every thing that ever happened to me was preparation for my present life’s task?

    I lots of times wonder about the fruits of suffering.

    Is all concerted effort such as difficult study and repeated practice of some skill some kind of suffering?

    Is everything a balance of suffering,pleasure and reward?

    • Harry, you raise some interesting questions there. I think some pains are avoidable, but not all, and some suffering is visited on innocent people because of the actions of others. This is true in everything from warfare to drunk driving to domestic abuse to schoolyard bullying. I think the books of “wisdom literature” such as Ecclesiastes and Job are good starting points to find at least some idea of God’s answer to your question, but these same books seem to suggest that such questions are a natural and appropriate human response to suffering.

      Re: football, I would not have allowed my sons to play if they had wanted to (which they did not). Dr. Daniel Amen, whose clinical colleagues were able to control Matt’s manic episodes where many others had failed, has written a great deal about brain injury, including specific studies on NFL players. Some would argue that the benefits of football outweigh the risks. I disagree, but the risk-to-benefits question is one that pops up again and again in many areas, almost all of which seem to provoke passionate disagreements. Where the purported benefits are nothing more than entertainment (and monetary profits), and the risks are injury or death, it seems a bit more clear cut to me. But then again, I’m not the one playing or watching…

  2. Thank you Julia for reminding me once again to look for the simple pleasures in this life. I have a beautiful shrimp plant that is still blooming this late in the season. Even with a few frosts. I am so thrilled with this!!! Just out my backdoor I can find beauty and strength. I pray you, Jeff and Matt are doing well. I keep you all in my prayers. Love and Light. Cherie

    • Cherie, I had never heard of a shrimp plant, so I looked it up and the photos are gorgeous! Thank you for introducing me to yet another delightful botanical wonder. The endless variety is truly amazing. YES, beauty and strength are right outside our doorways, in many ever-changing forms. We can also find it online among those who take the time to share with us. ❤ Thanks for being here with us! We need and appreciate your prayers. You are often in mine as well.

  3. blseibel

    I’ll have to give the flowers at the grocery store a closer look as I stroll by. And yes, my life is blessed and has had many beautiful moments, I just need to remember them now and know there are more to come… I hope!

    BUT Even in this troubled time I enjoyed a beautiful moment on Saturday. I was heading to the next town west of here to my nieces plat and the almost full moon was rising in the west, big and orange and just above the horizon. At one point I stopped to take pictures of the moon and bare trees when 3 deer came wandering along the ridge line just under the moon, oh how beautiful, I thanked God for the beautiful gift of nature. Wish I could post pictures but I can’t figure out how to do that here.

    • I’m usually in such a hurry at the grocery that I don’t have time to enjoy the flowers, but I love to NOT be in a hurry so I can browse even if I have no need to buy any. There are some surprisingly gorgeous plants and blooms in most grocery stores today. I think how drab the stores were by comparison, when I was a little girl, but then our mothers were justly proud of having a “supermarket” for grocery shopping. In so many everyday ways, life seems to be getting better. If only we could learn to handle all this abundance wisely.

      Don’t you just love it when you look up and see a HUGE moon? Especially with the colors you describe. The deer would have made it almost unbelievable, very dreamy. If you want to send a picture, you can send it as an attachment to — I haven’t figured out how to embed photos in the comments, but I can post it to WordPress and put a link here.

  4. Amy

    Hi Julia, I am snowed in and not going anywhere nor can anyone get down to me. What is your situation. I love this. I try not to rush by the little things. I think of the line from Shawshank, “Everybody went and got themselves in a big $@^# hurry.” They may not be an accurate quote but it sums things up. Too often we just want to get through something so we can move on to the next and we miss the beauty. Hope you are having a beautiful day wherever you are and that your boys are not snowed in. Let me know that you got this. Hate to canx as I know your life is crazy right now. I will contact you again if things change. Love you. Keeping you in prayer.

    • Hey there, I’m having fun picturing your street and driveway right now. Talk about Currier and Ives! The deer are saying “hey, we can ease up on guarding the driveway — nobody is going to get down this way anytime soon!!” We are all home for tomorrow, as all our appointments (Jeff’s chemo, Matt’s doctors and meetings) are cancelled and not yet rescheduled. Thanks for checking in. You are welcome to join me for a virtual all-day tea party tomorrow. Everyone in cyberspace is invited and it’s a come-as-you-are event. BYOB (bring your own brew) or sample some of mine. I have a bit of almost everything you can think of. 😀 We have the perfect excuse to chat and relax. Stay warm! We’ll reschedule soon.

      • Amy

        I will definitely be at the tea party. We can hear plows in the neighborhood behind us but so far have yet to see anyone here. It is Currier and Ives for sure. We have seen lots of tracks and been out to invesitgate a few. Our poor doggie is not happy so we are going to try and make some tracks to coax him to the street today. Don’t know how enthusiastic he will be but he will start to have “issues” if he doesn;t “move” soon. Praying for you all and hoping all the appointments get reset soon. See you for tea, Love, A PS I got some yummy cookies that I first tried on our flight to Hawaii. I will bring those to the tea party.

        • Amy, pass me those cookies. Currently I am sipping some Canadian maple tea, spiked with just a touch of David’s Coconut Macaroon Marshmallow that I was enjoying yesterday. Jena sent me some (loose-leaf) and every time I fix a cup I steep the leaves again and again, milking all the flavor from them. Greedy, I suppose. I did throw in a bit of green tea to make it extra-healthy, so I can eat more cookies, hee-hee. I’ll bet your home is postcard-pretty right now. Wish I could see it, but having a mental image is enough and I’m not eager to get my car stuck. Give W an extra hug for me and tell him I TOTALLY understand about having issues from not being able to walk!

          • Amy

            Finally got W out of here for a walk in the tracks Stephen and I made to the road. He was very happy and was able to take care of his issues. Today with the freeze he was able to walk on top of the snow and that made him really happy. Wish you could see him. I took some photos and will save them for you.

            • I wish I could have seen him! He is a sweetheart all the time but he would be absolutely adorable playing in the snow. Maybe you can bring him up again for some more doggie therapy for me sometime soon. I’ll look forward to seeing the pics.

              • Amy

                Lets try to get together this week. I will bring Wrecker or if we get enough melt off maybe you would like to come here. You could always park on the street if our drive is only suitable for four wheel drive vehicles. Let me know. Love you.

                • In checking my busy social schedule (NOT!) I think Thursday would be even better than Tuesday, if that day would work for you. There are a couple of Matt-related appointments that were cancelled last week due to the weather that I will need to reschedule, but so far, Thursday is clear. Tuesday is possible too, but Jeff has an afternoon appointment with pulmonology at Bethesda and I would need to get home early to be there for Matt. On Thursday I could have more time– but of course, that might not be a good thing, hee-hee.

  5. MaryAnn

    God continues to surprise me with delightful scenery at every turn! Flowers are interspersed to add such joy! “Stop & smell the flowers” IS great advice!
    I am among the group enjoying God’s Creation while here on Earth, and eagerly awaiting my Heavenly home!

    • Mary Ann, when we see those flowers in heaven, I can just imagine us saying “WOW, and we thought the ones on EARTH were great!!” 😀 But in the meantime I’d love to be back there for a visit in CA where the flowers bloom year round. Enjoy them for me and I’ll enjoy the snow for you, while it is still pretty…

  6. You are so correct, Julia. We do often take those little bits of beauty for granted not appreciating how hard they worked to bloom into their majesty. We do that with just one lonely puff of cloud or a single raindrop. One little anything is as valuable at the large volume. Thanks for bringing to our attention. Hope you are having a wonderfilled week. 🙂

    • Thanks Marlene, it has been a wonderfilled week, what with being stranded in Grady country for two extra days. Seeing a grandchild who lives out of town is like watching a time lapse film of a flower blooming. They grow so fast! But I’m happy to be home. I’m going to try to get outside tomorrow and enjoy some close-up looks at the truly amazing effects of the blizzard here. I’ll keep you posted. Thanks for being here!

      • Judy from Pennsylvania

        “Seeing a grandchild who lives out of town is like watching a time lapse film of a flower blooming.” This is so true! I have a grandson in Virginia that I see only once or twice a year and the changes in him are delightful. I love the way you’re able to put lovely images into words. Your writings, dear Julia, are also like a beautiful flower in the sea of my daily internet readings. Thank you for sharing your inspiring, thoughtful insights with us. They’re uplifting and help me see the day through more pleasant, gentle eyes. It’s a gift you’ve been given and one that I appreciate.

        • Thank you, Judy. I really appreciate your kind comments about the blog. It’s amazing to me how these little gems of encouragement seem to arrive when I need them most. A coincidence? I think not! 🙂 ❤ I'm so glad you are here!

  7. LB

    Julia, I was chatting with Boomdee last night (yes, chatting … from Maui) and we talked of you. I hope she was able to reach you, too.
    Thank you for continuing to encourage us all to get out there, to live life, to seek beauty, to be thankful.
    Thoughts are with you always. XO

    • LB, isn’t it great to be able to talk to our Canadian friend calling from Maui and hear her voice more clearly than we could once hear a telephone call from a person in the same city? Always plenty to be thankful for, including the warmth and friendship from all of you that I can feel from across the state and even halfway around the world. I wonder whether you are having some winter wonderland scenes to enjoy at your home? Happy winter and thanks for being here!

  8. Julia, This blog is beautiful. And, like appreciating a single flower, I had to stop and read it, in order to absorb / benefit from the beauty.
    I like the simplicity of some Japanese floral arrangements, with such singularity of focus. It’s interesting.

    • Susan, I too enjoy the Japanese flowers, as well as the bonsai trees which seem to invite contemplation. Maybe taking a class in Ikebana would be therapeutic, especially if it incorporates the intangible aspects of that approach.

      I love those single orchids one often sees in grocery stores and florists these days. I don’t know whether that’s a Japanese style of arranging, but it reminds me of the same simplicity in design. I have heard they are terribly hard to keep alive, so I’ve never tried to have one at home.

      • I’ve seen fading orchids sometimes on the rescue plant (marked down) shelf at Home Depot. I suppose that someone who knows what they’re doing might be able to nurse one back to health. I tried once (unsuccessfully). I should have watched a “How to” on YouTube!

        • Isn’t it great that we can find out how to do so many things just by looking online? Not that all the information is trustworthy or true, but I have found some helpful solutions to everyday problems that way. Let me know if you’re able to keep one of those orchids alive. I might get up the nerve to try it sometime.

  9. Sheila

    Julia, it’s been a “take a deep breath, maybe one more” kind of week. Seems I read in a letter (a most wonderful letter) that you’re experiencing the same. We had windows and doors installed this week, 30 to be exact. How can our little cottage have that many windows? 🏠 With that comes some window cleaning…. BUT I don’t do windows. Haha! I have been giving it a try and rather enjoyed it. What can this possibly have to do with your blog? Without window coverings of any description I can see this beautiful setting in every direction. I was most amazed to see the resident “Garden City Eagle” twice this week. It’s too incredible. Bill says it’s fishing in the inlet behind us, perched high atop a house and then he gets his catch as he swoops over the water. God sends beauty and blessings in so many forms! Thank you many times over for the letter tucked inside the beautiful card. I am thrilled to have the update, my friend! 💛🙏 Love, Sheila

    • Sheila, with the ocean in front and the inlet in back, I’d probably find a way to have at least 6 windows even in an outhouse, so it doesn’t surprise me that you have 30. And what wonderful views! Ours aren’t nearly as interesting, but still I love to open those blinds and let the sunshine in. I’ve become a fan of having mostly bare windows except for cordless cellular shades, except in the bedroom where I love to have blackout shades with blackout drapes so I can sleep in sometimes. 😀 I think it’s interesting that eagles hang out near the ocean. I always picture them living way way up in the mountains someplace. But I guess they do like to fish. They truly are magnificent – you are lucky to get to see one. Hope you have a wonderful weekend!

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