African violets are a plant that will forever remind me of my grandmother-in-law. She always had them filling her windowsills, in various stages of propagation.
When she died, almost 20 years ago, the only things we wanted of Nan’s were:
- A little red plastic foot stool that she used to reach up into her cupboards, and which, when she turned it upside down, our toddler twin daughters played row, row the boat in with her.
- A photo we’d taken and had framed for her of ‘gran-nan’ with her four great-grandchildren.
- An African Violet or two.
Over the years I kept her plants alive, but at some point – maybe in a house move, I don’t remember – there were no more of Nan’s violets left.
A few years ago I bought myself a new one from a garden centre; a mini windowsill memorial to a woman who was dearly loved. It turned out to be an awkward little bugger though! No matter what I did it to nurture it, it refused to flourish, with flowers appearing less often than a blue moon. It became a frustrating challenge instead of the smile inducing reminder I’d hoped for.
About a year ago it flowered, which pleased me no end. I posted a picture on Instagram, mentioning in passing that it was such a delight because it rarely blossomed. One of my lovely IG friends, a nutritionist called Jodi from across the pond, responded to my post with a bizarre sounding piece of wisdom:
”It sounds funny, but if you give them a regular ‘earthquake’ every few days, they’ll continue to bloom quite regularly. Just shake the pot bottom against the table a couple of times. Works wonders with shortening the bloom cycle.’
Well it DID sound funny, but I was willing to give it a go, even though it seemed counterintuitive to shake a plant about to encourage it to grow. Of course, Jodi was absolutely right; my little African Violet is looking much healthier, and blooms much more frequently, with an ever increasing number of flowers each time too!
This got me to pondering life’s big questions (I don’t need much encouragement to be fair, it is one of my favourite things to do after all!)
Is the Violet Earthquake a metaphor for the trials of life?
Do we blossom after we’ve had our world shaken?
Pope Paul VI said:
All life demands struggle. Those who have everything given to them become lazy, selfish, and insensitive to the real values of life. The very striving and hard work that we so constantly try to avoid is the major building block in the person we are today.
Is struggle – the violet earthquake – an inevitable part of creating a good and beautiful life?
Let’s hear from Elizabeth Kubler-Ross:
The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, know suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of those depths.
I reckon that it’s the last part that gives us the answer – it’s not the struggle itself that creates the beauty, but the way it’s handled, and what we make of it. Do we choose to sink? Do we become bitter and twisted? Or do we decide to bloom in spite of the prevailing conditions?
Which brings me back to Nan. One of my all time favourite people, and someone who, certainly in the time that I knew her, bloomed time and again, right up to the painful end.
These beauties speak for themselves. Thanks for the reminder Nan.