As I planted my new impatiens this week, I wondered about their name. Impatiens. It sounds a lot like impatience, which I figured couldn’t be right, because these are bountiful, beautiful blooms that patiently survive my sporadic gardening.
It turns out that I was wrong. That’s exactly what the name means: impatient. It seems that the seed pods “discharge forcibly at a slight touch,” an explosive trait I’ve never noticed before. They obviously do this quietly and on the sly. I plan to do the slight-touch test when pods form this season.
Flowers have long been used as symbols and presented as messages. In Victorian times, people were especially interested in giving flowers significant meanings. Victorians often conveyed their feelings by sending flowers, which must have felt a bit sneaky, like sending a secret, coded message. Pink carnations proclaimed, “I will never forget you.” Red carnations announced, “My heart breaks.” Striped carnations meant, “I cannot be with you.”
And impatiens meant impatient. But here’s the interesting thing: Impatiens also came to symbolize motherly love. I guess that makes sense. Impatience and motherly love often go together. I’ve certainly felt both simultaneously. But now that I’m a grandmother, I’ve found patience much more accessible. Maybe that’s because I’m aware that my time in the world grows shorter with every passing day, so my priorities become clearer. When I look at my grandchildren, I think, “I have all the time in the world for you.” What, I wonder, is the flower for grandmotherly love?
Last summer I visited Norway, where the family of one of my daughters-in-law lives. The windows at the back of their house gives a perfect view of the sea. Each morning while sipping my coffee, I watched slow-moving ships make their way up or down the coast. The ships eased past, looking as if they were in no hurry to reach their destination. They’d get there when they got there. Patience.
So I’ve decided to rename my impatiens. I’m calling them “patiens” instead. I have a planter full. If I were to hold them all as a bouquet, I’d have my arms full. They’re my bright, quiet reminder to stay in a calm, peaceful place. To have patiens.
“The strongest of all warriors are these two –
time and patience.”
– Leo Tolstoy, War and Peace –
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Text and photos © 2018 Karyn Henley. All rights reserved.