Sometimes, I feel like my white garden. I’ve spent most of my life “blending in.” You know what I mean. Standing at the service desk at the department store, you wait while the clerk smiles and serves six people around you. Or you’re sitting in a job interview, and the interviewer, despite your impressive resume, says, “You just don’t come across with the leadership qualities we’re looking for.” A nice way of saying, “No one’s going to follow someone who blends in with the woodwork like you do.”
Or maybe your friends plan a quick get-together, but they simply forgot that no one told you. You feel like a TV screen—that dull grey glass everyone looks through but never at.
All the cum laudes written all over my curriculum vitae mean little to a world straining their eyes and ears for the sound bite star, the charismatic, toothpaste commercial candidate who grabs their attention.
I’m not sound bite material.
I like to choose words too carefully and slowly to garner that kind of following. Written indelibly on my first-grade report cards are my teacher’s shocked and thrilled words—“Jill actually spoke in class to day!” (Wouldn’t she be surprised to find me a professional speaker today? You just never know!)
I’m too short to stand above any crowd. When I tried our for the junior high cheerleading squad, they said I had the skills but not the volume. I’m usually too shy to break into that circle of women who seem so friendly.
I’ve gotten much better. Once you reach a certain age, I think boldness kicks in easier. Also, you start to recognize what is more important than your own insecurity. But that was not the case ten or twenty years ago.
So what does this anonymity have to do with my white garden? It’s just a little spot I’ve carved out right next to the house, tucked between the deck and the sunporch. In its often blazingly hot confines grow dozens of flowers and foliage plants linked by one common thread–they must be white. Silver, cream, green, and blue leaves and grasses all mingle with pure white blossoms. Noncolor has its day here, in blooms both giant and strong and diminutive and delicate.
But directly across the path from this monochrome lies a real attention getter—the butterfly bed. Here, flowers whose firepower could launch a NASA rocket dance and boast and draw the attention of people and butterflies alike. Serene and thoughtful they are not. One could easily miss the charms of that boring stretch of white when ‘cosmic orange’ cosmos demand the eye. But one would miss so much.
One would miss the bowing tresses of bridal veil spirea—my nod to sentimentality. I grew up twining such branches around my head, dreaming of brides, princesses, and fairies.
A person would miss the soft felt spread of artemesia ‘silver brocade,’ a carpet invoking thoughts of bare feet and snuggly blankets.
How would you miss the twinkle of silver thyme, a variegated pixie that stole my heart the first time I saw in it a garden center, with nary a flower necessary for its starry show. Or the innocent voluptuousness of white lilies showing off, nodding at the equally aristocratic white delphiniums across the way.
Don’t Miss It
Only those who take the time to stop and look closely will appreciate this one-color spectrum of beauty. You won’t see it if you walk quickly by, looking for what catches the eye easily. But for those who slow down, investigate, and take time to know each plant’s gifts, the white garden yields a rainbow.
Such rainbows lie hidden among the people you interact with every day. They may not seem like spotlight material. They may prefer to serve in the background, never seeking awards or recognition. You may have even felt (or said) they were insignificant in the total picture, not harmful but not vital either. You may have passed them by as coworkers, friends, or volunteers. Next time, stop and look. Investigate. Probe the gifts you don’t readily see. You’ll be surprised.
And, if you too are a white flower in a sea of color, don’t yearn to be orange. Though you may seem overlooked, the garden would miss something vital without you.