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Strawberries and Violets

Last year, almost at the end of summer, I finally bought a dead-looking bunch of strawberry plants. My daughter had been begging for us to plant strawberries, and it had taken me that long to make the purchase. Truthfully, it only happened because a leftover slab of strawberries pretty much walked its way into my cart while I went to buy something else. Still, promise kept, strawberries bought.

We planted the strawberries and, since we live in Idaho, it was still cool enough for them to grow. We got about three strawberries and all took turns taking a bite. Then we waited excitedly for the next year, when there would be more strawberries.

When spring came we were happy to note that the strawberries had spread out and begun growing even more plants. Little white flowers dotted the greenery, all of them promising a bountiful harvest. We had neighbors with awesome strawberry patches, and felt we were well on our way to acquiring our own.

And then, something happened. If that sounds vague, that's because it is. I don't know what attacked our strawberry plants. Other plants nearby showed no problems, but our strawberry plants grew yellow. Berries that had begun to blossom folded in on themselves and turned brown. Our strawberries were dying.

Two strawberries persisted, but while we were willing to wait for them to properly turn red, the wild bunnies who visit our yard at night were not. (Either that or some sneaky child decided to take a chance on a slightly pink berry.) Strawberries for us, this year, were not meant to be.

We were all of us sad, but what was there to do? I was nervous to plant new strawberries in the same piece of land for fear they'd meet the same fate.

A few weeks after the demise of the berry patch, I noticed some new greenery working its way into the strawberries' dirt. I thought of pulling the likely weed out, but felt disillusioned with weeding a strawberry garden that didn't actually exist. A few days later, I was glad to have waited. A cluster of shy little violets had snuck its way into the garden. Who knows how?

When I was little, shy little violets were one of my favorite plants. I would pick them and get out my mother's tiniest little vase to prop them inside. So delicate and miniature, the violets were like a secret in a garden. You could miss them entirely, but if you looked closely, they would wink and nod their heads at you.

And here, in my heap of dead strawberry plants, were some shy little violets of my own.

There are times, I think, the carefully planted strawberries of our life wilt and disappear. We don't know why it's happened, and even the few plants that seem to show promise are stolen away in the night.

It can be discouraging to have a dream, plant it, wait for it to grow, and then end up with nothing. It can be frustrating to have no idea why it happened, how you might have avoided it, or why your neighbors' strawberry patches seem to be fine. This can especially happen with writing. All of it is such a long process, and you never know exactly how it will turn out. But you have to keep going, still hoping that something will grow.

After all... if we wait, it's likely a few little violets will show up, slyly reminding us they were our favorites, once upon a time, and that they are - perhaps - exactly what we need just now.


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