Do roses have a purpose?
The apple and pear trees in our desert garden produce fruit. In the fall, we share the best of the crop with our family and give the less appealing picks to our daughter-in-law for her chickens. Likewise, the raspberry bush creeping up the back fence produces enough fruit to give us a taste and the birds a treat.
But what about the roses?
Toward the end of summer, if you let the hips ripen instead of deadheading the spent blooms, they become a source of nutrition for birds, other wildlife and humans. Most people don’t know that you can harvest the hips to make tea or jelly. It’s quite a bit more involved than plucking an apple and sinking your teeth into it, but it’s possible even for a backyard gardener.
Beyond that, what is the purpose of a rose?
I’ve come to the conclusion that their purpose is the same as mine. To be there. More specifically, to be there for others.
As humans, we marvel at the magnificent rose blossoms that have become symbolic for love, gratitude, friendship, and hope. We drink in the fragrance and find ways to infuse that sensory joy into perfumes, bath oils, and candles.
We aren’t alone. Honeybees gravitate to fragrant, open roses for pollen. Leafcutter bees collect bits of leaves to build their nests. No rose enthusiast wants to see aphids on their beloved bushes, but these tiny insects thrive on the juice of the rose plant. (Luckily, nature has its own karmic remedy for that as ladybugs thrive on aphids.)
If the simple rose is a source of support for the rest of the living world, shouldn’t we follow suit?
I watch in wonder as my best friend spends her retirement in service to everyone but herself. She is the statewide leader of a national organization, sits on multiple boards and commissions, testifies at legislative hearings, is a long-distance caregiver for elderly relatives, and repeatedly travels hundreds of miles to visit and look after her young grandchildren. Last year she sat with my husband while I was in surgery for breast cancer. Last week she sat with another close friend whose mother was in open-heart surgery.
I can’t say I’m as selfless as she, but I do try to live in a way that lifts up others. As I moved around in my career, I continually looked for what was worthwhile about my assignments. No surprise. It was always about helping someone – helping a client through a crisis, helping a co-worker reach their potential, helping my organization develop a positive culture. Now that I’m retired, I’m able to channel more of this energy to my family, friends, fellow cancer survivors, and to my readers.
Perhaps I’ve developed a “be there” outlook because of the intrinsic rewards found in lifting up others. That makes it a tad mercenary, I suppose. But I honestly can’t think of any better way to be than the roses in my garden.