Irises and roses
By John Latta
‘April is the cruellest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.’
— T.S.Eliot, The Waste Land
Not lilacs but irises. The daffodils precede them in March, but it is the irises of April that are most moving. The roses come later. I rarely think of my mother without thinking of her in her busy gardens, and it was irises and roses that she most loved and made to flourish so spectacularly. It came so naturally to her. It was a gift and she valued it as such. Thinking back perhaps it was not only their beauty that made them her favorites, but the fact that they came back to life after the winter.
When the first irises opened – usually her dark blue and gold variety followed soon by a faded purple and gold bloom – she was simply overjoyed. I wonder now if she felt they were sharing something. Winter did its worst, but in the end we did not succumb to it.
She had a lifelong saying: “Press on regardless.” I remember it from when I was too young to have any idea what she meant. It was brief enough, simple enough, and its origin was probably from her youth in the tough times of post-war England. Possibly from her parents. She was an admirer of Churchill but I could not find it in his speeches. In tough times she would never consider throwing up her hands and letting the easier options take their course, nor would she rely on others to do for her if she could do it. Her “press on regardless” was, I suppose, a way to draw all of her resolve together under a single banner, to simplify the fight and help her recognize that, at its base, giving up wasn’t an option, so have at it and come what may. And on she went.
The fight against our economic winter goes on. Within it, our attitude may be one of the most important weapons we can carry, and use. In the end it is a simple thing that we need to see simply. We don’t need pop psychology books, someone who was once on a television show or overpaid coaches to tell us this. It’s not a commodity discovered by marketers or motivators, they just profit from it. America may be the last, best place where attitude can actually make a difference in practice.
Mother would simply have said, ‘Press on regardless’ then thought out how to do just that and set to it. I miss her. April is indeed cruel. v