Personal Journeys with Gramma

Life adventures, inspiration and insight; shared in articles, advice, personal chats and pictures.

Cherishing Lady Slipper People

When I was in second grade, our assignment was to create a scrapbook of pressed wildflowers, labeling each. Since I loved wildflowers then as now—including those called weeds, I was eager to begin. I scoured the fields, forests, and ditches for specimens, and when I turned in my project carefully glued between sheets of colored construction paper, I did it with pride. The teacher gave me an “A” before she took me aside.

“You did a very good job, Susie,” she told me. “But next time please don’t pick any endangered flowers. This lady slipper flower is supposed to be protected, because there aren’t many left. It’s against the law to pick them.” I felt crushed. I had done something terrible.  I didn’t tell her my endangered specimen came from what was left of the forest floor in front of our newly built house outside the city limits—a spot that was soon to be buried by trucked-in soil and lawn. (Everyone wanted to have a nice lawn!) How could I inform on my parents when I was so painfully guilty? The natural beauty of the forest was being wiped out, and I was complicit.

I thought about that flower for years thereafter. Nothing we planted in our garden was ever as magnificent. I wished I had known sooner about the fragile existence of lady slipper blossoms—a type of wild northern orchid— so I could’ve cherished them. I should’ve celebrated the joy of having something exquisite right in my own front yard. We often don’t recognize those parts of our lives that are rare and beautiful until they’re gone.

This week has been filled with reminders to me of the frailty of health and life. Our indefatigable daughter fell ill. My husband had a basal cell carcinoma removed. The police officer with whom my husband traded back-up for years on the street succumbed to Alzheimer’s and died. He was the best man at our wedding; the last we saw him, he didn’t know who we were. 

We are, each of us, blossoms of lady slipper—unique and wonderful. As we rush around trying to complete an honorable, fulfilling life, we might not notice when the bulldozers of time bury our treasures. So today I urge myself and all of you to take a moment to look around. Who or what has become a part of scenery, something you take for granted? Sometimes it’s a glorious part of yourself that you forgot to appreciate. Often it’s the people who are your background—coworkers, neighbors, friends, family, etc. Once you truly see them, the mere realization that they’re there in your front yard, waiting for you to notice, enhances your life. You’re rich beyond your knowing.  

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