Maybe the things she loved most weren’t meant to be permanent,
Maybe the fact that they existed was enough.
–Julie Schumacher, Grass Angel
Almost one month ago I made a 10-hour round trip from Greenville, NC, to Nelson County, Virginia, to stop at Pharsalia. I had one mission–Pick up four dozen dahlias to bring home and photograph. Yes, I know . . . to some that may seem a bit excessive and a little over the top, especially for a bunch of flowers that may last a week, if I was lucky. However, for me, I couldn’t have been more excited to make the trip, have lunch at Basic Necessities in Nellys Ford, spend time with Foxie Morgan at Pharsalia, and bring home a backseat full of dahlias. You see, I LOVE dahlias! Well, really, I love all flowers, but I am enamored with dahlias.
Last summer I grew a very small first crop of dahlias – about eight plants. I spent six weeks or more photographing them on my back patio and in my living room. I even had a chance to visit Pharsalia for a flower (dahlias!) arranging class AND bring home a huge bunch to enjoy and shoot. My home crop last summer was successful and gave me many opportunities to “work” the dahlias. So, I ordered even more tubers to add to the garden this year–well, lots more.
And how was this year’s crop? Well, let’s just say that I planted all the dahlia tubers in the front and back garden areas with high hopes. The yield has been pitiful–yes, pitiful. Turns out you can fertilize mistakenly and get big, bushy foliage and little to no blooms. There is, however, one plant that has given me flowers consistently through the season, and I’m thankful for that. Even so, I truly missed the variety and profusion of my dahlia moments and desperately needed a fix. Hence, that ten-hour trip in one day in August.
So, what happened when I brought my bounty home? Well, I had big plans and super high hopes to photograph every single one of those four dozen blooms. Plans to photograph them one at a time, in groups, the whole bunch, fronts, backs, sides, curves, curls, stems, and petals –you name it. And, not only that, I envisioned portraits in macro and close-up settings, petal plays, multiple exposures, spins, zooms, soft focus, still life set-ups, lightbox views, Lensbaby magic and sooooo much more. I envisioned explorations of every nook and cranny–deep dives with my dahlias. Yes, I had big plans.
“HA!” Life said to me. Quickly, I realized the truth of this one word with my first session with the first dahlia. I realized that I had just spent three hours with one bloom. Yes, THREE hours! Looking ahead, I knew my schedule was full and had to accept that there simply would not be “enough” time to truly embrace my dream dates and take those deep dives with all my dahlias.
Of course, if we step away from the flowers for a moment, this is true of so much of life, isn’t it? There seems to be not nearly enough time to do what we love most. Acceptance of this limitation required a major “Reframe.” I would work my blooms as much as my time allowed and enjoy every moment. And, I did. In fact, I still have the remains of those days . . . dried dahlias for my next challenge—“Finding Beauty” in those dead dahlias. (Stay tuned.)
All the while during my time with those four dozen I kept hearing one word – ENOUGH. What is that? How much, or how many, equals “enough?” (The dictionary says that it can mean “as much or more than is wanted or as much as is necessary.” For whom, I would ask?) So often it feels as though this word “enough” is paired tightly with another–“never.” I get it. Believe me, I think we all do. But is “never enough” productive or encouraging to any of us? Or can we shift our focus to accept what IS, and let whatever that is be enough? It’s an interesting question. So, I asked it of myself–particularly about my dahlias (and flowers in general). Mind you, this is a far cry from considering the value of enough when we think about time with our loved ones and friends. But even then life has an inevitable and natural way of limiting access. The metaphor applies broadly. Being fully present and appreciating each moment is required and must, on some level, be enough. We have what we have – nothing more on the timeline. We must make the most of it.
With these thoughts stirring in my brain, I kept thinking about that concept of “enough.” That’s when I came up with the “Can One Be Enough” challenge for myself. My four dozen dahlias were dead and drying on the dining room table. My one producing dahlia plant was (and still is) giving forth blooms. And, so began my experiment. I cut one flower–just one–and told myself that I could only shoot this one yellow and orange dahlia. I couldn’t change my mind and pick another one if this didn’t trip my trigger. I had to wring this one out and squeeze it dry of whatever images I could before it, too, dried and died. Beyond that, there were no rules. I could use any lens or accessory I wanted–I did. I could process my favorites any way I wanted–I did. I simply had to stay focused on that one flower–I did. It had to be enough. And, for the challenge, it was.
This experiment reminded me of other things—deeper things. First, I learned or confirmed that in the big picture, one can be enough, especially when it has to be. It reminded me of how much I appreciate “just one flower” when it is left on my rearview mirror or in a tiny vase on the kitchen counter by my husband. It means even more when that one flower is left when I am leaving town without him (which I do a lot). Those single flowers mean more than any dozens I could fill a room with or any millions in a flower field anywhere in the world. Those “ones” left for me with love are more than enough and fill my heart with love and gratitude. I hope he knows that . . . and I must tell him. Thank you, Jeff Davidson, for every single “one” and for being you. Perhaps, this is among my greatest lessons learned in this challenge, but there is more.
I also learned that it is okay to love the masses even when I may not have time to pay attention to every single one. Without question, I have loved, do and will always love my dahlias and every other flower on this earth. They bring me joy and peace and, best of all, a sense of wonder and appreciation for every living thing on this earth. It’s beyond miraculous what is before us in the greatest and smallest of things. Simple and complex beauty is everywhere. We simply have to slow down, open our eyes and minds and be amazed. Examine a single blade of grass, and you may be able to understand.
So, even when I don’t have enough time (or as much time as I want or feel I need) to photograph every single flower I grow or bring home or find along the way, I can and do appreciate every one of them for their beauty, their uniqueness, their resilience, and for the joy – however fleeting – that they bring into my life. One minute, one hour, one day, one month, one year and one lifetime – whatever that time is that we have – must on some level be enough. The challenge very often is to recognize and appreciate the temporal nature of all of us and them. The hard part is to accept willingly (if not gracefully) what may necessarily need to be enough.
As I sit and write these words, I am thinking of my parents. This is the year they both celebrate turning 81 and the year they celebrated SIXTY years of marriage. I am beyond thankful for them in so many ways. I am blessed beyond measure to have them here. A hundred years with them would never be enough, so I’ll gratefully accept the “81” along with however many more come our way and appreciate every collection of moments and memories that are made. Each one will never and yet must be enough. And the same goes for all those whom I love and those who love me. Whew! All this from four dozen dahlias …
Coming back around to those flowers – my dahlias – and the idea of enough. Tomorrow I ride one more time to make another ten-hour trip for dozens of dahlias. This time, though, I ride with my husband, the one who gives me the “ones” that are always enough. We’ll meander through the countryside there and back. We’ll stop here and there to photograph beautiful moments, and we’ll be thankful for this time together. When we get home, I’ll “work” my dahlias again. I won’t get to every single one. There won’t be enough time in the days to come for that. But I will love every one of them and appreciate every moment and memory. All of this will be “enough.”