816 North Opinion

Susan Vollenweider: Stop and smell the roses, literally

On a recent warm evening, I stood outside and tried to describe the sensations around me to a friend. The spring temperatures and experiences felt foreign, thanks to our long and bitter winter, but I sounded like I was reading from a sappy romance novel.

“The soft breezes silkily caress my skin; the calls of night creatures serenade me. Is this real? Closing my eyes I capture the moment of bliss.”


The next day proved that spring was not a fictional mirage. It’s really here and I worked to erase the scars of winter.

One of my landscape favorites was a large, deep fuchsia shrub rose that I named Happy Accident. I thought I had purchased a peach climbing rose five years earlier, but Happy Accident grew and splashed color steadily for all those summers. This spring she never leafed out — a victim of our winter.

In memoriam to her (and to fill the void of color in my yard) I planted three new rose bushes that day. I know what the tags said (salmon and yellow) but if they grow to be something else I hope that I will appreciate them like I did Happy Accident, by literally stopping to smell her roses for the past five years.

As my week went on, I had paying work to do. My particular version of the creative process works like this: Itty Bitty Idea, Keyboard, Creation. Well, I suppose that is the


situation. The reality usually plays out: Itty Bitty Idea, Keyboard, Snack, Facebook, Twitter, Keyboard, Panic, Creation.

When I’m stuck on “Itty Bitty Idea” I have some tricks to get going, including mowing the lawn, cleaning something or sleep.

The last is my favorite, because it was my mother’s advice for times when I had a difficult choice beyond, “Should I eat the nasty parsnips to earn dessert?” Big life decisions. Which college? Fun summer resort job or the money-making live-at-home one? Should I break up with my idiot-but-I-love-him boyfriend? My mom would tell me: “Sleep on it. The answer will come to you in the morning.”

Even though proving Mom wrong at that particular (obnoxious) time in my life would have been great, she was right. My first waking thought was always there, as if the Answer Fairy had visited me in the night.


“Resort. Enjoy life, tighten budget.”

“You should have dumped him a month ago.”

That week I had my Itty Bitty Idea, but couldn’t make the leap. I had mowed, cleaned and I slept on it, but the Answer Fairy was eluding me. Desperate, I sat down at the keyboard … and landed on a

YouTube video of a man pouring molten aluminum down a red ant hill

. Once the metal cooled, he carefully dug up the remains, rinsed off the clinging dirt and revealed an intricate piece of art.

I called the kids over to watch.

“Too cool!” Bekah said. “Are there any more?”

Instead of doing my work, we clicked and watched other varieties of ant colonies become art. We talked about the creation, described what the finished pieces looked like — Christmas trees, honeycombs, a dancer — and we debated the ethics of anticide.

I went to bed that night without making the leap from Itty Bitty Idea to Creation.

But I woke the next morning with this thought in my head:

Stop and smell all the roses. The literal and the figurative. Rose bushes, anthills-to-art and all the upcoming graduations, confirmations and weddings that mark the passing of time with the blooming roses in our life gardens — our children.

Thanks, Answer Fairy.