Several days ago, I was feeling very stressed from personal events in my life. My son was preparing to graduate high school, he had joined the reserves, my younger son was considering a part time job, and a dear friend of mine was dealing with a bout of severe depression induced alcoholism. While these situations were not unique to me, I was definitely feeling the anxiety. In order to reduce my chances of slipping into a depression, I chose to take a walk outside during my lunch break to help clear my mind and improve my mental health.
I started out with a fairly brisk pace keeping my eyes straight ahead and focusing on my breathing. I took the first steep hill with a determined stride pumping my arms to improve my momentum. As I sped down the other side, I recognized that I was releasing some pent up anger that I hadn’t realized that I had been carrying. I was angry that my son had joined the reserves without discussing it with me. I was angry that my youngest was struggling in Algebra due to ‘losing’ his homework and was now considering a part time job to further distract him from his studies. I was even irrationally angry that my son was graduating because it meant time was slipping by too quickly. By the time I reached the bottom of the hill I was practically stomping and my mood had gone from bad to worse. The heat of the day wasn’t helping. I was beginning to regret my decision to go for a walk as it wasn’t turning out the way I had intended.
As I passed under the first big oak, I knew I had to slow down or I would run the risk getting too hot and sweaty on my walk. Consciously, I slowed my pace to match my breathing just as the trees closed above me in a canopy. To distract my thoughts, I started watching for wildlife, hoping that my mood hadn’t scared away all of the squirrels. Rustling noises drew my attention to the branches above my head. Leaves fluttered, stirred to motion by a cooling breeze. The sight of the leaves dancing and the cooling effect of the wind eased my temper significantly.
As I watched, the breeze chased wayward leaves littering the ground. Several large yellow petals were tossed into the wind and spiraled around the path in front of me. The color caught my gaze and when I reached that part of the path, I leaned down for a closer look as the gardener living in my heart was awakened to peer out my eyes. She never can resist taking a peek at new plants and flowers and I often indulge her even when my mood is sour.
The petals were not just solid yellow as I had though; orange was mixed in near the petal base where, when it was attached to the flower, the color would peek out from inside the bloom. It was a nice pumpkin orange on the butter yellow petal so, when the next breeze hit, I snatched one out of the air for closer inspection. What I saw on that petal actually caused my steps to falter and brought me to a halt in the middle of that shady path. The petal didn’t just have an orange spot; it had an orange heart.
I stared at the petal in my hand for a few seconds then kneeled down and gathered several more. Examining each petal revealed that the heart wasn’t just a coloring fluke or, as I had originally thought, a hoax originating in a crafting project. Every yellow petal I scooped up had a single perfect heart. As I stood there with a handful of petals, my mood shifted. It was as if Mother Nature had sensed my anger, frustration, anxiety, and depression and gifted me with a quick hug and a whispered ‘I love you.’ I realized that if a flower could grow a petal with a heart hidden in its folds, I could move past each and every situation that was currently renting space in my head and damaging my inner calm.
I turned back towards the office trailing petals as I walked. My pace slowed and I spent a little more time soaking in the ambience offered by a shaded path on a warm spring day. Instead of stomping, I strolled along searching the branches for the origin of the petals. I could not find any yellow flowers but the act of searching allowed me to drink in the beauty of nature. By the time I reached my office door, I had a single petal cupped in my hand. I shared my petal with those in my office and asked if any co-workers knew what kind of flower it came from. None of them had ever seen one before but each commented on the heart pattern without coaxing and, each of them smiled when they saw it.
Eventually, I turned to the Internet to determine where the petal had come from. While I never found the actual plant by the path, I was able to learn that the petals had come from a Carolina jasmine vine that would have been growing high up in the trees beyond my range of sight. While I was unable to find where the petal came from in the trees, I was gifted by a smile delivered by the wind when it was most needed. Now, when my mood is sour, I take a few minutes outside to enjoy nature satisfied in the knowledge that happiness can be delivered on a good stiff breeze when least expected.