Columbine are so Optimistic

columbine sketch by David Borden
(c) 2013 David Borden
After lingering by the koi pond, I wandered down to the rose garden, which had scant blooms in March.  I found a bench under a great canopy of shade on which to eat my sandwich and read.  The breeze curled around me, occasionally flipping one of my pages too soon.  I looked up to see a gaggle of children running away from a bright-haired mother.  They laughed and shouted as she surrendered control to them in a fit of despair.  Is it bad of me that, when I see children running amok, it lightens my heart, not because their antics are so amusing (because they are often more annoying than amusing), but because they are not my children, and the mischief they make is not mine to resolve?

I read a while longer before resuming the trail into the heart of the Zilker Botanical Garden, past the pond again, past the grotto with its miniature waterfall, up along the stream, around to the other side where small plots of cactus and flowers bloom.  I idled against a low, retaining wall, looking at the columbine, which are native to colder climates and like to hide in canyons and rocky places.  In Texas, such a delicate plant could only survive in the shade, out of our brutal sun.

I don't consciously pick the subjects for my sketch book.  They generally pick me.  Invariably, I set out on my day searching for a bird, a vista, maybe a lizard that will allow me to get close enough (they never do).  I try too hard, and I find nothing.  Once I stow my sketchbook and decide to just stroll, it happens.  These little flowers sneaked up on me in that way.  I had already made up my mind that I would leave the park-- this was my last stop.  But, as I sat in the shade, I kept looking at the clump of columbine.  Their petals, supposedly getting their names from the Latin word for dove, "columba," spray outward, delicate and nearly translucent in the cool light.

A young couple, hand in hand, perambulated with slow, synchronized steps, peering at my pad as I drew.  They tried not to stare.

Flowers are so optimistic, I thought.  Don't they know that their beauty is transient, that soon they will shrivel and die?  Is it their willful ignorance of their fate that makes them so attractive, or is it their simple statement that life goes on?  I should be more like them... live in this moment... open like a flower... come what may.


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