The surprise found in pink ladies and turning 40

The pink ladies arrived again this August. On time as usual just as one feels the shift in summer to almost fall and the mornings with a cool breeze. Their long, lanky stems shoot from the grass and the pink flowers stand at attention. You can spot the pink ladies throughout town. We find these pink ladies in rows, circles, or in clusters. Some wrap around the oak trees, others line garden beds, and still others burst forth from trenches in the grass. One day we don’t see any, and the next day they’re all around town.

Riding our golf cart to and from the pool, the kids cheer, “pink ladies, pink ladies!” (I also am aware that their actual name is Naked Ladies, but with our young children we figured it was easier to refer to them as pink rather than having them cheer for all the naked ladies they see around town…) They know these flowers are my favorite — for their color, the uniqueness in length, and how they magically appear overnight. I never see them in stages of growth, just tall and coming to my waist. Do they shoot up over night to their full size? Are my eyes not attuned to their slow growth? I don’t know. All I remember from summers past year after year: tall, pink ladies fully grown found in surprising places all over town.

Isn’t that how we sometimes witness the growth of our children, and often ourselves? We labor and labor over our projects (writing, woodworking, gardening, etc…) and after days and days of small action and little growth, we walk out to the garden and return to the page and find a full creation before us.

With our children we cut their food and pack their bags, we teach them how to tie their own shoes and dress themselves, small step after small step. And then one day they’re bathing themselves, washing their bodies and hair and out the door all on their own.

Almost overnight my children can seem like they’ve grown up. And I wonder – did I miss their growth?

Pink ladies bloom for a short time and then they’re done. The weeks they appear at the beginning of August are full for our family. When the first flower is spotted we’re heading to the pool on hot days and by the time the last pink lady flower has fallen, we have backpacks filled with school supplies and have traded the golf cart for the carpool line. They come when my husband and I are celebrating our wedding anniversary and birthdays. They’re here to usher in the new school year. They bloom as our garden overflows with tomatoes, cucumbers, sunflowers, and weeds, and the kitchen is covered in canning supplies for tomato sauce.

Every August the same thought comes to me as I marvel at these mysterious pink ladies dotting our neighborhood: can I trust the magical growth in myself and my children? Today is my 40th birthday and the looming date, August 25th, brought only discomfort and unease.

Life is a gift, I know. To age is a privilege, I know. Age is only a number, I know. Yet, there’s something about 40 that brings me to pause, wonder, and reflect. Have I paid attention to my life enough? Am I present enough? Have I grown? Did I miss my own growth? Have I done good work?

And maybe I don’t need the answers to these questions, perhaps just asking them is enough right now. Maybe, just maybe, these pink ladies that appear during my birthday month are showing me another way. A way forward into this new decade attune to the mysterious growth that is often unseen. The work of prayer and stillness. The attention to my own breath. Living into the questions. The gift of being right where I’m planted.

For today, I want to hold on to the beauty before me right now — an abundance of summer veggies, smoothies on the front porch, Mary Oliver’s poetry, a journal and pen, snack time at Oma’s house, the chatter and hum of birds, a neighborhood cat to sit on my lap, a good book, friends to sit with at the park, a group to walk the neighborhood streets, moms who love my kids like their own, a handwritten letter.

And perhaps, most importantly, what the pink ladies are whispering to me through their presence is for me to know that when it’s time to make room for something new, I’ll let go in gratitude.


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