I live in a drafty, old, character-filled house. I love my house with it’s lacquered wood doors and mutton bar windows. Somewhere in 1928 the Davidson’s moved from Saskatchewan to Delta with the promise of owning a beautiful chicken farm. They bought 10 acres and built the house that I now live in with my family. I’m sure that Mrs. Davidson must have loved to garden. From the old pictures I can see row upon row of vegetable gardens, vines and plants thriving in the large yard. She obviously wasn’t strictly into planting to feed her family because there are remnants of several ornamental plants around the yard that pop up in the funniest places.
I have snowdrops in a circle beside the driveway where there once must have been a tree. There’s a plant with sweet yellow flowers and velvety leaves that peeked through the soil by my garage a few summers ago after I had removed the sod and added some mulch to create a flower bed. One of my favourite plants that has managed to survive the ninety years is this amazing 15 foot tall and about 10 feet around rhododendron. (If you look closely in the above picture you can see the rhododendron’s stalk and leaves just to the left of the stairs.)
Every year around this time it produces these massive, bright pink blooms. I love this plant not just for its blooms or it’s colossal size, but for it’s tenacity. You see somewhere between 1928 and 1991 when I bought the house someone spliced the rhododendron with another less grand purple rhododendron. My pink rhodo with it’s glorious blooms, large, light green leaves and gnarled old branches is slowly being enveloped.
The purple rhodo seems to be a hardier, maybe because of youth, plant and several years ago began to grow around the pink. It wasn’t that noticeable until last year when the rhododendrons bloomed. The back of the plant was always filled with purple blooms, but last year the purple overtook the pink in the front.
If I could, I would go back in history and change what happened to my pink rhodo. I would defend the rhodo’s right to persevere through whatever difficult times it might have had. I would encourage the gardener-of-the-time to value it for its pale green leaves that curl in the heat of the summer and its majestic blooms that all too quickly lose their colour, fading from dark pink to almost white.
Recently, I have felt like the pink rhododendron spliced together with a system that values grades above tenacity; percentages above perseverance. I want to continue my education, but it appears as if history is in control of my choices.
I completed an amazingly engaging two year program in graduate studies last year. The program has had a huge impact on the way I practice teaching and I realized how much I love learning. I decided that I would apply for the third and final year. Two days ago I was told that I need to appeal to the Dean because my GPA from my undergrad degree from 1988 does not meet one element of the university’s criteria for acceptance.
I persevered through school, elementary, high school and my undergrad. I learned, though I never felt as if I was valued and knew that the majority of my written work was a C+ at best. I failed high school the first go round and chose to attend night school. I put myself through university despite the challenges of working two jobs and moving from my home at sixteen.
I am the pink rhododendron. I am trying to reach out and move beyond the grades and percentages. I no longer want to be smothered by the system that tells me I am C+, which isn’t good enough, or that I have little value because, like my rhodo, I pale in comparison to others. I am so much more than how others choose to define me.