I have a big dog. A Great Dane in fact, and this morning I was out back collecting some spring flowers that only seem to thrive in the places where we’ve dumped her winter offerings collected from the snow covered yard. A 135 pound dog can create an impressive volume of offerings. It’s a ritual; following her after her daily constitutional with the blue metal scooper and carrying the mess to the side beds to toss it just over the ornamental rail where it decomposes beneath grapevine, clematis, day lilies, azalea and other sleeping things in the garden.
By May, after the mess has been incorporated into the soil and mulched, it’s a tiny jungle of green. As I crouch down to move the lush green leaves and collect the delicate violets and lily-of-the-valley that grow there, every brush of my hand against the petals will cause a cloud of heady fragrance to perfume the air. The amazing scent these tiny bell shaped flowers give off herald spring and all the little things that have returned after our punishing Michigan winters. They bloom and thrive for a few short weeks and then they’re gone. Waiting for next winter’s feeding to gather the steam to do it all again.
These beautiful, tiny wonders were fed from the mess that was once dog crap. Hey, it’s fertilizer. Whether it comes from cows or another creature, the nutrients and organisms make for rich ground.
Dog shit. Who knew that out of such an unpleasant situation, some of the most fragrant and lovely flowers could rise from the muck and thrill the lucky recipient of the bloom? It got me thinking about other things; people even, who started their lives in awful, challenging and difficult situations and somehow turned their time on Earth into a blazing wonder of creativity.
I have bought, and received, gorgeous hothouse flowers; roses and other things that look absolutely perfect from a distance. Moving closer I am always disappointed to find there is hardly a scent to them at all. Pressing my nose right into the blooms I find nothing; as if they were silk and a Made in China paper tag should be found stuck to the stem near the plastic thorns.
These flowers have been given the perfect setting, just enough water, nutrients, light and tending to produce perfect petals and uniform color. They bloom on time for the growers and are cut and delivered to market like obedient little children; having done their homework and gotten the proper eight hours of sleep each night. Everything…right. Everything…calculated and perfect. And they are that; perfect. Flawless. Soul-less. Lifeless and perfect.
These hot house flowers are like so many boarding-school, trust-fund children; their path from birth to death a safe and predictable journey. Bred and trained to maintain the family’s reputation and to protect the fortune amassed by relatives until the young reach an age when they can quietly whither in their private gardens observed by those who can afford the luxury of their physical beauty.
Call me crazy but I’ll take a handful of dog-shit-fed, knock-you-on-your-ass-with-their-heavenly-scent, drive way throw off, back-garden lily-of-the-valley any day over the surgical beauty of a hothouse rose.
I’ll take my friends and my heroes like that too. The people I know who started out fighting their way through the shit are the shining stars that make life fascinating. They took what they were fed and used it as fertilizer for books they’ve written, for art they have made, for inspiration to grow on through the mess. The ones who came from nothing; even the wealthy rebels who rejected the attempts to conform them to the family cookie cutter shape, they have brought a bouquet of fantastic memories to anyone lucky enough to meet them.
Here’s to starting life in a pile of crap and coming up smelling like heaven…