Peony ponderings: celebrating life’s loveliness

COFFEE WITH WARREN, with Warren Harbeck
Cochrane Eagle, July 20, 2023

Peony Petals on the Ground, by Mary Anna Harbeck. In her prime, the big pink double peony was a great beauty and brought pleasure to all around. Her scent drew others near just to catch a whiff. She enhanced the garden with her loveliness. But as time went by, she began to fade and lose her freshness. Then one dark and stormy night, the rain pounded down and the wind blew its hardest. In the morning, the peony flower bloomed on the plant no more, But on the ground beneath were scattered tears of lovely pink petals—the memory of the once beautiful pink peony.

A recent storm sent my wife, Mary Anna, out to her garden to see how her beloved pink peony was doing. To her dismay, all she found were the “scattered tears of lovely pink petals” on the ground. This inspired her to reflect on that experience in word and image in a photo essay she’s sharing with us this week in the accompanying graphic.

She had so looked forward all season to the peony’s blooming. But too soon after it had reached its prime, it had already started showing signs of aging. That storm was its conclusion. But were the petals on the ground really all that remained? Not at all, for they were catalysts for what could almost be seen as a eulogy – a celebration of the peony’s life!

And that, in turn, inspired me to reflect on how we celebrate the loveliness we encounter in each other. Mary Anna alludes to such praise as our experience of pleasure and admiration in the peony’s presence, expressed in word and whiff. But what about the people around us who are such important parts of our lives? Must they wait till they are mere petals on the ground for us to share our gratitude for them?

I experienced an answer to that question last Friday evening when a large gathering of friends and family celebrated the golden wedding anniversary of our garden-friendly Cochrane coffee companions Tom and Geri Biberger (see last week’s column). In addition to great food and fellowship, we also celebrated the couple’s loveliness through many spoken words of praise, as well as a 15-minute video of beautiful highlights from their 50 years together. (Wait for a funeral for such a video? No way! Do it now!) And Tom and Geri, in life’s full bloom, were fully aware of our pleasure in their presence.

So, thank you, Mary Anna, for sharing your thoughts on peony loveliness in the garden. May we all be inspired to do our part to praise and bring out the best in the gardens of our friendships.


© 2023 Warren Harbeck

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