JARS v39n2 - Beauty is in the Eye of the Beholder

Beauty is in the Eye of the Beholder
Austin C. Kennell
Afton, Virginia

I have a problem! At least I think I've got a problem. Well, maybe not a problem...You decide.
You see, the two deep, abiding loves of my life are my grandchildren and my plants. Now, where I have a problem or personal hang-up, or whatever it is I have, is when someone asks me which is my favorite. Whether they are referring to my grandchildren or my plants, I'm equally nonplussed. I can no more pick out a favorite rhododendron or an azalea than to pick out one of my six grandchildren as my favorite.
I don't want to mislead you - I do have a few favorites. I have a favorite youngest grandson. My favorite rhododendron for growing by a stump beside one of my pine trees is the one growing there. For that spot just outside my office door, the hands-down winner is the plant that's there. And, after careful evaluation, my favorite youngest granddaughter is the one that just happens to by my youngest granddaughter. In the category of rhododendrons all broken up by a falling tree, I already have a perfect specimen. As for favorite grandchildren that are married, I've got a terrific candidate. To fill a need for a best granddaughter born on "Groundhog Day", I have a winner. For the best azalea growing in the corner by my barn, somehow I've got the best in class. In the "just graduated from high school male grandchild" group, I got a blue ribbon champion, as is also the case in the "granddaughter in college" category. It's rather amazing, but in every single case I've got the best grandchild and the best plant to meet my unbiased standards.
It makes absolutely no difference to me whether any of my plants are rated 5/5 or any of my grandchildren are considered a 10 by others. I rate them all tops. Each are precious to me. Each brings a wealth of joy and happiness into my life. Their weaknesses and their strengths matter not. It is enough that every time I see any of them, they make me feel good and proud to be part of their lives. I like the first rhododendron I ever planted as well as any I've acquired since, but I also like the last one as well as any I'd gotten previously. And from that wonderful moment when I first viewed my oldest grandchild as a 2-pound, 13-ounce premature infant held in one hand by her nurse very late one night in a darkened hospital 25 years ago after rushing back to Baltimore from a business trip, I have fallen in love all over again with each new grandchild. A very wonderful and wise old lady - my wife's grandmother - once told me that each new baby brings its love with it. This is just as true with each plant I get.
But maybe the problem is that I'm just not very discriminating, for I like the distorted, the sprawling plants as well as the symmetrical; the floppy trusses (or even no trusses) as well as the show types, the non-fragrant as well as the fragrant. I love my rhododendrons and my grandchildren for being what they are, not what others would like them to be. There's something heart-warming about a plant or a person that does the best they can for you. There's something indomitable about a plant or a person that takes everything their environment (and I) throw at them and still does their thing. Every one of my grandchildren and every one of my plants are unique and each in its own way wonderfully beautiful to me.
Others may treasure their 5/5's, their show winners, their perfect specimens. But I'm far more fortunate; every plant I have is a winner and that goes for my grandchildren, too. My favorite? It's really very simple! It's the grandchild or plant I happen to be admiring at that moment.
The wonderful old hymn "In the Garden" says it pretty well;..."and the joys we share as we tarry there, none other has ever known". My plants, my grandchildren and the memories each evoke are special to me and my Creator. To us, there are no winners and no losers. I am very close to my God in my garden and very close to immortality thanks to my grandchildren.
You know something else?
I'm sure glad I've got this problem.
How lucky can you get!