The first peony of the season bloomed today. In my world this is a big deal. You see, I believe that peonies along with calamata olives are absolute evidence that a higher power exists. I cannot imagine two more perfect things! I cut that first bloom and reverently place it in a tiny glass vase bought just to showcase this one magnificent baseball sized orb. As I sit in humbled silence watching an ant work its way through the maze of loopy feathered petals, I am munching calamatas. This is a moment of gratitude and joy. Heaven on earth.

The first peony of the season is always an event for me, but this particular peony holds even more significance as it’s “history” includes abandonment, rejection, neglect and abuse. Two years ago, a friend casually mentioned that his mother had torn up a peony bush and tossed it in the street. I could not imagine that.  Who would ever throw out peonies?

 “How long ago did she toss it?”

“A few days ago.”

“Is it still there?”

“It was this morning”

“Can I have it?”

Later, he brings me a sad, limp, grayish brown branch with a few curled, khaki colored leaves.  One pale, pathetic root trails like an errant nose hair. I am frankly very disappointed.  I stick this tortured looking thing in the ground and water it. Days pass. Nothing happens. Really nothing. It does not grow and it does not die. Weeks pass.  I need to yank that out, I think.

But I don’t.

Through the summer, through the fall and winter of 2009-10, nothing changes. And it is spring again. Then summer. Nothing changes. It is still as sad looking, just a grayish khaki stick in my front yard.  I need to yank that out, I think.

But somehow I cannot bring myself to do it.

Enter the whopper winter of 2010-11 that relentlessly slammed the Northeast. I am convinced that nothing will survive in the garden. Whatever once lived there is now forever fossilized in the frozen tundra of my front yard. Surprise! The snow actually does melt and the garden thrives!  One day, I notice a tall, green plant.  The Peony? I whisper.  

Sure enough, like the little engine that could, this peony could and did. It is now my most lush and vibrant peony plant. It also rewarded me with the first bloom- a perfect white flower with tiny red veins and an aroma that can only be called “knock your socks off wonderful.”

How did this happen, I think? I did nothing extraordinary. This peony, against all odds, survived. 

Now, it occurs to me, this is resilience.

We too, can get stuck-unable to thrive, we just barely hang on. Then suddenly we begin to flourish and not because of anything anyone else does.  Like that peony, getting better is an “inside job”. Even the most abused, neglected, depressed and addicted can turn that corner.  The status quo and the pain seem to go on forever and then one day, we turn our face to the sun and bloom.

Resilience is a strange unforeseeable force that can create miracles. It belongs right up there with peonies and calamatas.




  1. Laurie on the 31. May, 2011 remarked #

    What a beauty!! One never knows what can come out of wreckage until we let it be 🙂 Thanks for the reminder

  2. CJ on the 31. May, 2011 remarked #

    I’ve just come home from Nantucket: my husband, our kids and grandkids all spent a glorious and unforgettable weekend celebrating out 20th wedding anniversary – and the 20th year of our blended family.
    It was only 22 years ago that I was that peony, buried and stuck, barely hanging on. With a strong will to survive and resilience, I, too, learned to thrive. As did our family.
    The will to bloom is strong no matter what the momentary adversity might be.

  3. Jen on the 31. May, 2011 remarked #

    The little peony that could…

    I love it, because I am it! For those of you feeling like the torn and tattered plant. If you work on you, put yourself first and are kind to yourself – you will bloom. Be patient…it will happen.

    Donna, thank you for your story and your guidance on my journey to repair myself and bloom again.

  4. Maggie on the 31. May, 2011 remarked #

    So, there’s hope for my lenten rose?

    Great story and fabulous peony!! Yes, resilience. Yes, joy. Yes, yes, yes.

  5. Ellen on the 31. May, 2011 remarked #

    This story illustrates to me that we need others, as well as faith in a higher power in this journey of life. We can’t do it alone as that plant couldn’t. It needed nurturing from a caring hand. We all do to some extent. We sometimes have to learn to ask for help.

    Your story also says something about expectations and how harmful they can be in a relationship. You expected that plant to show you some life. It didn’t. Many people, when their expectations are not met, build resentments. That plant did not meet your expectations, yet you didn’t give up. You were rewarded.
    I think if we use that imagery in our own lives, we’ll receive great gifts…

  6. Ann on the 01. Jun, 2011 remarked #

    Beautiful. It gives you hope. The peony is one of my most favorite flowers.

  7. Kim on the 01. Jun, 2011 remarked #

    Thank you for reminding me that there is always hope for change and beautiful things to come. My love for peonies has just taken on a new significance!

  8. Sharon on the 01. Jun, 2011 remarked #

    No wonder I love Peonies! I have surrounded my home with them not realizing how much we have nutured one another over the years.
    Thanks for the uplifting story. It made my day!

  9. Maria on the 01. Jun, 2011 remarked #

    WOW!! I see myself and my journey over the last 6 years in this story. I, just like your peony plant, was feeling tortured and withered but with the guidance, nurturance and love you have bestowed upon me I now feel blossomed and beautiful! Resilience along with patience, love, guidance and nurturing go along way for both species–plants and humans. Thank you, Donna 🙂

  10. Angela on the 01. Jun, 2011 remarked #

    What a wonderful reminder. It is an inside/underground job. I have peonies everywhere at my house too. It’s so true too; the pain is there there there and then boom things are blooming and changing. Thanks Donna!

  11. Nancy on the 02. Jun, 2011 remarked #

    I have been fortunate to have had bright pink peonies bloom throughout my life. For me they have always been a symbol of love, nurturance and joy given to me by nature from the caring hands of someone who took the time to nurture…me and the plant. I was touched by your story and your willingness to take the time to nurture… be it the plant, your blog, your friends, people in need. What a wonderful gift you have.

  12. Donna S. on the 18. Jun, 2011 remarked #

    Donna, once again you’ve brought tears to my eyes with your beautiful words. This is exactly what I needed to read this morning. Thank you.

  13. Jan on the 18. Jun, 2011 remarked #

    Breathtaking. A reminder of what we need to remember in this crazy world that sometimes seems to knock us down again and again. If we stay planted, we will bloom….

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