The phrase “stop and smell the roses” is an admonition to slow down and take time to enjoy life and soak in the beauty around you. The expression came into use in the 1960s from a rephrasing of golfer and autobiographical writer Walter Hagen’s words, “Don’t hurry. Don’t worry. And be sure to smell the flowers along the way.” Despite the paraphrasing, the general message still rings true.
For most of my adult life, I’ve found that I need to remind myself to stop and smell the roses. This especially rang true when I became a parent. As I morphed between a taxi service rushing between school, soccer practice, concerts, and academic events, to a writer, illustrator, and business owner, and again to a home caretaker, taking a moment for myself, no matter how brief, seemed nearly impossible. At times, I found that my preoccupation with my beloved roles of wife and mother left me feeling that my self-identity was lost.
When I started gardening, I found that it became an activity that was just for me. Time spent among my cherished plants allowed me to take time for myself guilt-free. My mind could wander freely among the flowers, no longer burdened by thoughts of schedules, meal plans, and an endless to-do list. I could relax and be in the moment, soaking in all the beauty surrounding me. I watch the bees carry out their methodical nectar and pollen collecting duties and marvel as beautiful blooms unfurled their petals. When I am immersed among my plants, I am transported to a place of peace. I have discovered that I can not only find myself in the garden, but I can truly and literally take time to smell the roses.
Then the COVID-19 pandemic hit, and our calendar was wiped clean of obligations overnight. Months of soccer practices and games, concerts, plays, school events, and social gatherings were gone. Our busy lifestyle came to a grinding halt. More than ever, we had the time to stop and reflect and be grateful for what we had. And while I did feel grateful, I found the task of staying positive and focusing on the little things in life that mattered difficult, as my mind was filled with thoughts of dread, worry, and fear. More than ever, I found that I needed to grasp and hold onto whatever beauty I could find in my isolated, shrunken world.
Once again, my garden was there for me. During the stay-at-home order, it was one of the only places that I could go, and I was so thankful that a place like that existed for me. While puttering around among the plants, my mind once again could take a break and be eased as I focused on my tasks. In my eyes, the flowers seemed brighter and more abundant than in any previous years. Every time I witnessed a flower bloom or an insect going about its daily routine, I was comforted because they told me that life was still moving on. The world had not come to a complete stop, and this offered me hope in a time of despair. Taking time to smell the roses was now more important to me than ever. I needed to stop, relax, and see the positive things that were going on around me for both my physical and emotional well-being.
Seven months later, things are slowly starting to approach what we used to consider normal. The calendar is gradually filling up again, albeit the events tend to be slightly different and much more virtual. I still find the need to stop often and make sure I take time to smell the roses, peonies, irises, hydrangeas, lilacs, and any other flowers that I might encounter along my way.
Our gardens and nature are serving as friendly reminders that we need to notice what is going on around us; otherwise, we might miss some lovely things in our lives. Make sure to take some time for yourself during these difficult times and reflect while doing something you love. Notice the bees pollinating the flowers or the detail of a flower’s petals in the setting sun. Sit and observe the natural world around you, because it is amazing and can bring great comfort. Notice, too, the beauty in your own life, your friends, your family, and your health. Now more than ever, we acknowledge their importance to us. There is much beauty around us and in our lives if we take the time to look. And perhaps there is no better time than now.
Photographs (from top to bottom): Feature: Prunus serrulata ‘Kanza’, Mixed bouquet of Zinnias, Cosmos, and Sunflowers, Hydrangea macrophylla, Rudbeckia hirta, Hydrangea macrophylla ‘Nikko Blue’, Iris germanica ‘Batik‘, Syringa vulgaris ‘Sensation’, Rosa rugosa in Maine