08 October 2011


My grandmother had a plaque in her kitchen that stated, “Bloom where you are planted.”

When Gram was a young bride, she followed her husband to different mining camps all over the state of Arizona. Sometimes home was a little mining shack with a packed dirt floor. Sometimes home meant the nearest store or post office was several hours away, over bumpy, wash-boarded roads. I think of how lonely she must have been in those early years of her marriage, when her husband was working long days in the mines. And, of course, she couldn’t stay connected to the outside world by checking in to Facebook or receiving emails or even phone calls. Eventually, my grandfather realized that they’d have a better life if he went to college, and so off to Tucson they went, and after that, there were more moves as well.

But she loved him, and wanted to be with him, and had promised to do so, no matter how tough things got. She toughed it out, made the choice to be happy, and they made a life together for more than sixty years. She bloomed, and he did, too.

My grandmother certainly wasn’t a Buddhist, but she definitely understood the concept of living in the moment, and being present. She and my grandfather always made the best of a bad situation – sometimes to the point of later romanticizing the situation, and turning it into a family legend. This was the Depression, after all, and yet it seemed through their stories to be the Golden Age. Maybe that is the coloring of young love?

I thought of Gram this week, when I read the news of a college friend, who had been in the process of adopting a second child. She and her family decided to stop the process after yet another setback, but she remarked how difficult it was to stay sad for long with the gem of a daughter who made them a family.

Gram would have liked that attitude, saying my friend and her family were blooming where they were planted.

But, man, it’s tough sometimes to bloom with what we’re dealt. I look at my family and friends, some of whom have been facing difficult issues: cancer, infertility, extended delays with adoptions, unemployment, and divorce. I think, though, that we’d choose to keep to the path we’ve each chosen, in spite of each of our relative hardships.

I think, too, of my favorite of Shakespeare’s sonnets, Number 29:

When in disgrace with fortune and men’s eyes
I all alone beweep my outcast state,
And trouble deaf heaven with my bootless cries,
And look upon myself, and curse my fate,
Wishing me like to one more rich in hope,
Featured like him, like him with friends possessed,
Desiring this man’s art, and that man’s scope,
With what I most enjoy contented least;
Yet in these thoughts my self almost despising,
Haply I think on thee, and then my state,
Like to the lark at break of day arising
From sullen earth, sings hymns at heaven’s gate;
For thy sweet love remembered such wealth brings
That then I scorn to change my state with kings.

It was the first Shakespeare I’d ever read – and I had to memorize that sonnet for Sophomore English so many years ago. That sonnet somehow spoke to my teenage angst, and I still find comfort in it today. And I see how we can choose – or not – to bloom.

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