I bought a potted rose because I had heard they were among the hardest plants to keep, a flower that required daily care and attention to reach its fullest potential. Falling prey to a variety of diseases and parasites, if I didn’t have the rose on my mind every day, and act accordingly, it would die. I’d kept dozens of varieties of other plants before. Some I purchased at full bloom, others only tiny specks of seeds. Some withered in the summer heat and perished quickly, others hung around year after year, contributing little but requiring virtually no maintenance whatsoever. Some started out nice enough but I let them grow wild, and they choked each other out, fighting for nourishment in the soil. I bought a rose because I was so bad at appreciating what I had, because I went through so many lesser flowers halfheartedly. I bought a rose because I needed to practice love.
Love is not a seasonal custom, or a pleasure to enjoy when one’s in the mood for it. Love is everlasting labor, and reward. It’s appreciating something special for what it is, and what it brings to you every day: in the pleasure of seeing something thrive, and the grace from having a chance to make something better of yourself, to make something other than yourself better. I’ll probably live to be eighty-four and still not fully understand this.
I bought a rose with the hope that we could grow together, and I’d gain a strength inside that I’d always lacked. I bought a rose as training for something more precious than the life of several thorny stems in earth. I bought a rose and watered it, put in the sun, talked to and fawned over it. After some time had passed, it gathered white spots after a week or so I skimmed some articles on-line which led me to buy a fungicide at the department store. I sprayed it on and walked away, later bothered with how long the milky chemicals glazed the once vibrant leaves. Branches grew brittle and snapped off, petals fell to the ground and every new blossom that formed was smaller and more anemic. From time to time when I had a minute and it would catch my attention I would prune away a little of the worst areas; laundry caught on a thorned twig quietly pleading for help.
Winter came and I was left with three meager sticks and dozen sickly leaves. It looked like I had lost again, and I was fated to never learn from my self-absorbed egotism. For the first time since high school I spent a cold winter alone, truly lost in an empty house.
Eventually the spring came and the warmth of the sun returned to my balcony. The same old uninvited vines clung to my railing planters and I began to think of how I’d eventually have to lay down some new marigolds and turnips to cool the summer afternoons. But one day when I wasn’t expecting it something changed. As I was sweeping the cruft from the last five months down towards the drain spout I bumped into that simple brown pot in the corner of ground. The long barren and unforking stalks of my rose were different– over two dozen chartreuse buds had appeared, and in those tiny, meager shoots I found more joy and surprise than all of the last year put together. The rose had taught me a lesson, though it wasn’t the one I thought I was looking for… love was undying, and had given even ungrateful me another chance. If love can keep hope for me, then there must be a way for me to keep hope for it.