There are many symbols that have come to represent this time of year. The story of the nativity, Christmas trees, stockings, St. Nicholas, snow, menorahs, dradles just to name a few. Beyond these well recognized and festive symbols are the lasting and true aspects that tend to bring out the best of almost all of us -- peace love and hope. If ever you are trying to discover the true meaning of this time of year, these three things would be it. I will share with you one story of love and hope and may it bring you a sense of peace this season.
We are all familiar with the tragic events that occurred when Hurricane Katrina broke land. The levies broke and the rushing waters caused mass devastation to much of New Orleans and the surrounding areas. When watching it on the news, I have to admit I had a feeling of disconnect as what was happening seemed beyond my own comprehension. People were standing on roofs praying to be rescued, stories of bodies floating in the water, thousands gathering in a football stadium praying and waiting for basic necessities, lives lost, homes washed away and all I could do is sit there and watch. I was safe and dry and want of nothing. Like many others, an overwhelming sense of wanting to help and become involved came over me. I did what most did, I donated money, food, clothes and all that and once that was done, I felt good about myself because I helped and then I just carried on with life. That seems to be how it happens doesn't it? Something horrific happens, we are moved to do something and then as the news coverage dies down so does our interest. It just seems to be the way humans "work" for the most part.
Fast forward a year or two. My wife was receiving House and Garden magazine despite the fact she never ordered it. Occasionally, we would read through it but more often than not, it would end up in the recycling bin. On a lazy Sunday afternoon I decided to thumb through the latest issue and I hunted down the token garden article that appeared at the end of the magazine that was usually nothing of much interest. It turns out this particular article would have a tremendous impact on my life. Though I have tried, I cannot find this magazine so I cannot recall the exact title but it was something along the lines of "Out of Devastation, Comes Hope." The article spoke of a woman by the name of Peggy Martin who "had been a mainstay in the New Orleans Old Garden Rose Society for many years." Peggy lost her home, her elderly parents and commercial fishing boat during the storm.
I cannot even begin to imagine how Peggy must have felt when she returned to her home to survey the damage. The dirty waters that inundated her property left behind salty layers of sludge that left her home and beautiful gardens in ruin. She was however "heartened to see the lush growth of her thornless climber, a testament to its toughness and status as a true survivor. This rose and one crinum were all that remained of the once beautiful garden." Suddenly that feeling of disconnect I originally felt when watching the devastation on TV went away. There have been many stories of heroics and testament to the strength of human spirit and kindness that have emerged over the years but this particular story really touched my heart. This rose in its very survival was the perfect representation of hope in a world where it is needed so desperately by so many.
I went on to read about the efforts of Dr. William C. Welch, Professor & Landscape Horticulturist, Texas A&M University. After connecting with Peggy, he came up with the idea to get this rose in as many gardens as possible and from each sale money would be donated to the Zone IX Horticulture Restoration Fund. The fund was established for the purpose of restoring parks, gardens and green space in New Orleans, LA, Laurel, MS and Beaumont TX, following Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. After reading the article, I decided I would assist with this cause in any way I could. Over the weeks, I presented the story to several of our church groups and friends and family. This amazing rose is now in dozens of Tucson gardens and various other gardens across the country. While I am proud of this achievement, the story does not end here.
I wanted to give a very special gift to a very special friend I met here at Dave's Garden. Her stories inspire so many and she represents the absolute best part of gardening - the story and human connection behind what we do. I had set aside a Peggy Martin rose I was growing in my own garden for her and by the time it was sent, it was not in the best of shape. I packed it up carefully and sent it to its new home in Kentucky. For me, this was much more than a casual gift. This rose has so much meaning and I knew that a new, wonderful story of love, hope and peace would be formed once our very own Sharon Brown received it. True enough, it did.
I think it was about a month after Sharon planted the rose; I received an ecstatic e-mail from her exclaiming the rose was in bloom. I was hoping it would bloom for her before it got too cold and the Peggy Martin rose held true to her steadfastness and toughness and recovered from not having much leaves to having a lush set of leaves and flowers. I call this love across the miles. It is this love and feeling of peace that perfectly symbolizes this day so many call Christmas.
No matter what you are doing today, I hope this story brought a feeling of hope, peace and love to you. This is the best time of year to reflect one's blessings and connect with the stories of our fellow human. I thank you for reading and wish you the best of whatever this season brings to you.
You can read the original Peggy Martin Rose story by Dr. Welch here.
You can view the Wikipedia article about the hurricane here.