The Rail and the Rose

20+ years ago, I bought a rose bush at the local home-improvement store nursery. 

We were new homeowners, and I couldn’t wait to start making the yard my own. Roses were the first plants on my list, as I wanted something similar to what I had grown up with – small bushes with deeply colored blossoms. I planted my newly acquired shrub right out front, up against the white iron porch railing. I eagerly awaited the fragrant merlot blossoms that were promised to me on the tag.

As the first bud opened, I was greeted by a pale peach blossom. Huh? It was stunningly beautiful - soft, rich, and luxurious, but not the color I expected. Then there was another one, and another one. I stared at my new purchase, decidedly disappointed with the unexpected color, then finally settled into accepting the mistake. Clearly the tag had been mis-marked. Ah well. The peach roses did smell heavenly and graced the yard with a subtle beauty. 

A week or so later, out popped a merlot-colored blossom. Then another one. And another. I was confused, but thrilled. They were exactly the color I had hoped for – that wine color, reminiscent of an exotic vacation or sweet summer romance, with a smell that reminds you that you’re in love with the world.

I learned through time that the peach blossoms came first…just a few sweet and innocent flowers that enticed you to kiss their tender petals, inhale deeply of spring, and forget your cares. Their appearance was gentle and fleeting. 

They gave way to their merlot sisters, who grew to become the rebels of summer. 

Those merlot blossoms were not the sweet-summer-romance kind of girls. They got attached. They grew from a vicious, thorny vine that grabbed onto anyone or anything nearby, demanding attention and always looking for someone to lean on. The iron railing was not up to their standards (or height). The peachy sisters, who sat politely on a shrub, learned to leave the scene before their kin could strangle them. That rose was half bush and half climber. I’d been duped.

So…why share this story? 

To be honest, when I first started this blog post, I had no idea where it was going. Is it about gardening wisdom? Sibling relationships? Unfulfilled expectations? While those would all be relevant and indeed crossed my mind as I typed, it is none of those.

I am sharing this story because the roses asked me to.

And as strange as that might sound, I invite you to continue along the journey with me as I started my day…

I begin my mornings with a brief meditation/prayer, and today I decided to go outside and sit in the sun instead of in my quiet office space. After finishing, I came back inside to check my emails, calendar, etc. and focus on the day’s tasks. Suddenly, the words “the rail and the rose” popped into my head, out of nowhere. 

It was one of those moments that made me pause. So I said to my brain, “Brain, what are you talking about?” 

Brain: “Wasn’t me. What are YOU talking about? We weren’t thinking about either one of those things.”

Hmmm. I took a deep breath, closed my eyes, and rolled the words over in my mind…where did that thought come from and what does that phrase even mean? I love the alliteration, but rail? What kind of rail – the bird, tracks, or a railing?

Then it hit me…my roses.

You see, this year, I was rehabbing the front garden bed. I wanted the new plants to thrive and the established ones to feel comfortable with the changes. For everyone to flourish, I invested in a tall black arbor, determined to give the rose sisters the support and space they needed. The peachy gals on the shrub-half are polite, charming, and non-threatening, able to stand just fine on their own. The merlot ladies need boundaries or they get carried away. They look and smell divine, but they get a bit overbearing after a while, and it’s not everyone else’s job to hold them up. Let’s face it, sometimes they 'll even cut ya. 

So, the rail and the rose. 

If I’m correctly understanding why the roses asked me to share this story, it’s all about support. 

When we’re going through change or change is happening all around us - with our consent or not - we need the right support to get us through. We need folks who can see what we need and will help us tend to those needs. We need friends who will help us establish and keep our boundaries so we can all grow well together while being our best independent selves. Diversity is critical, but change is thorny for everyone. We all need our space, while feeling like we belong. It's a tricky balance.

Rose reminds us that even if we don’t have the right support for a long time, we are strong enough to survive, and even thrive, while we figure things out. It might be a bit messy and we might be grabbing at whatever is nearby to help us through, and that’s ok. Accept what was, hold onto what worked, and grab something better next time. It’s a process. She asks us to let go of judgment and guilt; they won’t serve our growth.

And what we need for support will change throughout our whole lives.

Just as an iron railing may no longer serve a climbing rose, we need to allow some of our old supports to be replaced. We may not want to change those support structures in our lives – we may resist. But at some point, something will shift within us; we will be able to be honest with ourselves and accept the need to replace them. Then we can grieve, pause in the empty void, and begin creating the new.

And all the while, the rose sisters are here to help us through - wild, native, well-behaved, or rebel. We need all the sisters. 💗

May your joy be wild and your troubles fleeting,


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