The hydrangeas are everywhere this summer.
I love watching the seasonal progression of flowers in New England every year – from crocuses to tulips and daffodils, then on to iris, peonies, roses and sunflowers. But I’ve never noticed so many hydrangeas as I have this year. We are in the thick of summer – hot, languid, blue-sky days that end with hazy pink and gold sunsets – and the daylilies and hydrangeas, vivid splashes of color, seem to pop up on every corner.
I read a long time ago on Lindsey’s blog that the color of hydrangeas is determined by the pH composition of their soil. This fascinates me, especially since there are often multicolored flowers on one plant. How does the same soil – or slight variations of it – produce so many shades of beauty? (On a walk to the beach the other night, I spotted four hydrangea plants growing in one yard – all of them sporting different-colored flowers.)
The hydrangeas also fascinate me as a metaphor. I believe place has a strong influence on who we are, and who we become. I’m a native Texan who has lived in Oxford and now in Boston, and all three places have powerfully shaped who I am. The particular terrain of each season of my life – the beautiful and difficult elements alike – also has its effect on me. Like the hydrangeas, I must draw on the gifts (and the trials, and the weather) of my environment to create something rich and beautiful. The hydrangeas can’t choose what color their flowers will be, but I can choose what I make of my life.
This summer, despite its many delights, has been a difficult season in some ways. I’m turning back to my tried-and-true comforts: tea in the morning from my favorite mug, lunches and coffee dates with friends, the words of Julia Cameron (in The Sound of Paper) about self-care and building a creative life.
As I walk through my town on Boston’s South Shore and my work neighborhood in Harvard Square, I keep noticing the hydrangeas. I love them for their beauty, but I’m coming to love them for their resilience too.