Caring for Violets

A new reflection by Emily Gorton

It made me grin, imagining what anyone would think who saw me there by the side of the gravel road, hunched over a still-leafless thorn bush, balancing a single violet on crisscrossed branches. I laughed at how thoroughly useless it was to feel such revulsion at the prospect of tossing the flower I had plucked back to the ground, when nothing I could do would make it last.

Before venturing out I had read, in The Elegance of the Hedgehog, Muriel Barbery’s sobering description of a particularly pitiable character who had “been conditioned to imagine that only what must happen does happen.”[1] What made me sad instead of scornful was that she had used the word “imagine” rather than “think.” How much happier Antoine Pallières would have been if he’d used his imagination to consider everything that might not have happened.

So I went out, having been reminded for the dozenth time that day that the world needn’t have been this way. In fact, it need not be at all. And that it is is an expression of God’s loving will.

I am always unfeignedly thankful for spring in times when I need frequent reminders that life is a thing of constant renewal. That, of course, is always the lesson of spring. And I always need it. But when I know I need it, I am astonished at the grace of God in satisfying my hunger.

Here is an unspeakably lovely world in which God’s “preserving of the old in being is as much creation as the bringing of new out of nothing.”[2] A world in which every creature, be it a man, a violet, or bread and wine, is what Erazim Kohák calls an epiphany of value.[3] It is His love that causes the world to be reborn, just as it moves the sun and all the other stars. Spring, like the sunrise, is not a necessity but an evidence of God’s present care. Our grateful acknowledgement of this is what lifts time to eternity and preserves the beauty that would otherwise soon perish.

As I glanced over my shoulder I thought about the few times I have seen a neatly arranged miniature bouquet of wildflowers laid gently by the side of a path. Surely it was not because a previous wanderer had expected anyone following them to be delighted by the offering as I was, but simply because they cared for it. They saw the miracle of being where there might have been nothingness, and by their care acknowledged its eternal value in the face of transience.

I imagine that in the following hours and days my violet will drape itself over the branches as it wilts, and then shrivel as it dries, without a single eye but mine ever seeing it. There might have been nothing at all. That there was life is a miracle not diminished even by death.


[1] Muriel Barbery, The Elegance of the Hedgehog

[2] Robert Farrar Capon, The Supper of the Lamb

[3] Erazim Kohák, The Embers and the Stars


Emily Gorton is a Patrick Henry College graduate and currently lives in Northern Virginia where she works as a nanny. She loves storms, art, reading, and sautéing onions. 

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