There is a stickly-thin rose "bush" in my back yard that shouldn't still be there. I've tried to kill it three times. It tenaciously grows in the wrong place: the soil's bad, there isn't enough sunlight, water or nutrients. It is covered in thorns but rarely produces a flower. But despite so many reasons to fail it succeeds courageously every minute of every day. That ugly plant has become, for me, a daily reminder to keep in touch with my own core values. I didn't do that for a while and paid a pretty high price.
"What's that plant growing by the stream? " my wife asked one morning, looking from the kitchen window.
"It's that no-flower rose bush." There were two stalks about a foot high pushing out branches in every direction.
"It looks awful; can't be good for the herbs. Will you dig it up?"
"Nope; anything harmless that needs to grow that badly gets to stay in my yard. It does give us a flower every now and then. Besides, I've already cut it down three times."
During construction of a backyard deck, the bush was in the way, pretty scraggly and had rarely produced a flower. Hacking it down below ground level made more sense than trying to relocate it. The next spring, there it was again, poking a couple of tentative fingers out of the ground. That year's project was an artificial stream and the dirt berm, plastic sheet for the watercourse and the decorative stones all covered the again cut-down rose plant.
A year later, while putting some grasses and herbs at the stream's edge, I found two thin, weak unhealthy green but thorny stalks pushing for the sun from under the edge of plastic. I cut them down to the ground and covered the area with a thick layer of black lava rock. The next spring was when my wife spotted the bush growing again.
That rose bush is just being true to its basic nature: live tenaciously and give something useful to the earth. The best of ourselves is not that much different. It is just that the fog of stress and despair clouds who we are and what can be. However, reminders to keep our focus on the fundamentals of a worthwhile life surround us. We just have to be open and to look around.
My daily reality check is that ugly plant right outside the kitchen window. What is yours?