The pandemic has shown many of us that we can be homebodies. It has shown us that, when our homes are nourishing, welcoming places, we can thrive. When I think of people living well at home, I think of peonies. Peonies are a perennial plant that live happily in one spot for decades, even a century. The longer they are in one place, the happier they are, blooming more vividly every year.
There is a peony in my garden that comes from my father’s family home. Bright pink, frilly and just a bit extravagant, it tells a tale about my father’s mother, whom I never knew, who originally planted it at the family home in Renfrew, Ontario.
My father’s family had immigrated from Poland at the end of the nineteenth century. Other than my father’s eldest sister, eight of my grandparents’ nine children were born in Canada. Like every immigrant family, they came to Canada with few possessions and luxuries were uncommon. My grandmother, however, had a green thumb and grew a beautiful garden from any neighbours’ plants she could get a piece of. In one of my earliest memories, I am walking through my grandmother’s garden when her beautiful peonies were at nose height for me.
I was holding my aunt’s hand as I walked around, that sensation as memorable but elusive as the peony’s scent. I remember her telling me that this plant had been at this place in the garden for fifty years, that my grandmother had planted it shortly after arriving in Canada. It never moved and neither did she.
“She had travelled so far already and she was not going to move again.”
When I moved into my house thirty-one years ago, I brought one eye of my grandmother’s peony with me. It took awhile for them to bloom and I worried that they would never grow.
“Give them time.”
That was the advice I received regarding the peonies. That is also what we must learn from those people who, like peonies, are thriving in one place right now.
They realize that the secret to a happy life lies in finding the situation in which you can be happy – and remaining there. If you are lucky enough to have such a place then being there, during any trying circumstance will be a pleasure and not a hardship.
If a person, like a peony, could live in one good place forever, wouldn’t that be a good thing? After a long time in a good place, a person, like a peony, continues to thrive. This is what we need: a good place to live – not a new place but our own ground.
(My peony, when it was still getting used to a new home…)