“Labels are devices for saving talkative persons the trouble of thinking.” ~John Morley
As snow melts and winter begins to turn to spring we usually take an assessment of trees, bushes, and perennials in our surroundings to see what survived the winter, especially this year with the unusual amount of snow and the cold temperatures. A few days ago, I walked through my yard looking for signs of life. My tulips and daffodils are just “barely” starting to raise their drowsy heads to make their presence known. However, to my great surprise the hardy little perennials I planted last year were already budding, just shy of bursting into bloom in my otherwise dormant yard.
Flowers are one of nature’s greatest gifts. I have spent many hours planting, growing, cultivating, transplanting, and studying about flowers. Some suggest that flowers have a language that can communicate happiness, peace, love, and even sorrow. Just letting the names of flowers roll off my tongue brings a bit of joy to my soul. Daffodils… sounds happy; Honeysuckle….yummy; Lavender…delicately French; Jasmine…little flower, big fragrance; Peony…grandiose; Lotus…exotic; Belles of Ireland…prickly, but regal; Tea Roses…exquisite; Hellebore….what???? Hellebore, what kind of name is Hellebore? That name does not suggest beauty. The name does not roll off your tongue like dripping honey. It is a terrible name that sticks in your throat like a pincushion. It does not make you feel happy or inspired. Flowers have botanical Latin names and many of them have undesirable Latin names such as “Digitalis” but have been given improved common names like “Foxglove.” The only name change from the Latin genus name “Helleborus” is to “Hellebore” – not really much of an improvement! What happened during this process of identification and making the formal, less formal? Okay, this name is not worthy of such a beautifully delicate and resilient flower.
When we talk about the relevancy of names or labels that we use to identify or categorize, we have to ask what really is in a name or a label? We give things names and labels all the time but do those names really reflect the content and depth and beauty of its namesake? Is a name or label truly to identify or do we use this method in negative ways to put down and demoralize others? “The line between labeling for the purpose of providing information and labeling for the purpose of marginalizing others can be subtle,” says D. Gordon Smith of the J. Reuban Clark Law School. Giving something or someone a name or a label is usually done because of a particular incident or fleeting behavior. Names and labels can stick for a very long time; sometimes a lifetime. In a moment of conflict, poor judgment, or struggle, labels can not only be negative but very limiting. Dieter F. Uchtdorf said that, “Name- calling and labeling are forms of judgment, and the problem with judgment is its finality.” Once a label or name is given, there is little room for one to grow or evolve and since we all change and evolve almost continuously, labels are static and do not change as we do.
Since we all are imperfect and flawed mortals but blessed with infinite potential, labeling others or allowing the names and labels others attach to us to hold us back, defeats the gifts of hope, encouragement, inner strength and power given to us by a Living God. Our hope is to live in a sufficiently nurturing environment that we can continually change, grow and improve, and afford that opportunity to others as well. Labeling should be for cans and file folders and not people.
“The temptation to label is ever present. Labeling shrinks our capacity for genuine understanding of and love for the people involved.” ~ Ann Madsen
The little perennials thriving in my backyard are Hellebore plants. They are the first flowers on the scene in the spring. As a cut flower, they are the longest lasting of all the other flowers in my yard. Unlike people, they are not held back, nor are they incapacitated by their name. They do not cower, make excuses, wither, shrink or fade into the background. They are bold, resilient, strong, subtle, yet lovely, in spite of the name that humankind has given them. Hellebores are my botanical heroes. Like the Hellebore, I want to stand tall and not cower under labels others attach to me, nor do I want to limit others with silly, limiting or negative labels. That would be a Hellev – a way to be!!!
A few years ago I walked through the Brooklyn Artist’s Brownstone Home Tour in NYC and visited a townhouse owned by a brilliant artist. One of the most clever things I saw was demonstrated by his use of flowers, greenery, sticks, etc. from his own yard to beautify his home. Small votive candle containers were filled with flowers, flowering branches, ivy, herbs, etc. and were placed around the home. They adorned the mantles, were placed on nightstands, in windowsills and in bathrooms. It was such a simple and yet wonderful way to bring the beauty of the outdoors inside. I was so inspired by this simple use of readily available and beautiful flowers that upon arriving home, I vowed to make ten of these little arrangements each week and bring them inside to brighten my surroundings. Obviously, this has not happened every week, but I often make a few when my yard is bursting with lovely things. It makes me happy and I hope by sharing this simple idea will, in turn, make you happy. Today, in my small arrangement is my shining star – the Hellebore.