One Small, Single Flower

I’ve always called it my Georgia O’Keeffe moment, those few minutes in time when my world suddenly stood fully still and became a potent meditation in the midst of a powerful life transition.

My marriage had ended by mutual agreement less than two years before and then I’d resigned from my 13-year career with the Delaware County Chapter of NYSARC, New York State Association for Retarded Citizens. I had worked my last day, after extending my resignation three times for the well being of the agency (to help train my replacement) and also my own well being (if I worked to the end of the calendar quarter, they’d make another generous deposit into my retirement fund.)

Now I was home each day in my lovely ranch, the nicest home I’d lived in during my five-plus decades. My generous-hearted landlord had offered to sell it at a fair and affordable-for-me-price because he wanted me to have the home as my own. It was tempting, yet I’d known for quite awhile that it was time to open a new chapter in my life and I had made my plan.

Yet this 3-bedroom valley home, with a huge mountain out back bordered by an elongated, spectacular-in-the-springtime daffodil bed at its base, was surrounded by dramatic country and had long lured me to stay. Across the road were open, rolling meadows as far as the eye could see. If a person was inclined to live in this area’s countryside, here was an absolutely lovely setting.

Inside were a large office with wall-to-wall carpeting and a beautiful floor-to-ceiling stone fireplace where I nestled in each evening, particularly in winter, in front of a peaceful, warming fire and my computer. The kitchen, where I spent much pleasant time indulging in my passion for cooking, was well-organized, very functional, and also an instant reminder of the 1950s with its turquoise appliances. The three bedrooms were small, medium, and large. I claimed the large one while the other two were intermittently occupied during my two year residency there when my oldest daughter Polly came home from college in Lexington, VA, and my youngest daughter Susan stayed at other times as she made life transitions.

On this particular dark evening, which shrouded the light blanket of snow on the cold ground outside, I was working in the kitchen, my world reduced to cleaning out this dear house and placing the tangibles into three different piles: one for Good Will, one for short-term storage with my son, and a third tiny pile that would have to fit in my Mercury Sable, accompany me during my stay with my mother—who’d recently broken her back and with whom I’d live until she could again become independent in her own home—and then accompany me when I moved on to Virginia into open that unknown, new chapter of my life.

As I pulled out my endless number of accumulated objects, all the stuff I believed so necessary for living, from cupboards and drawers, I would silently ask myself: “Which pile do you belong in?” and place it accordingly. I was finding, interestingly, that the Good Will pile was quickly becoming the largest.

When I returned to the kitchen from the Good Will pile for the seemingly umpteenth time, my eyes moved to the circular clay pot whose rim unfolded gracefully outward as an inviting hand might, and contained one blooming pink impatiens that I’d brought into the house before frost. It silently, simply sat atop the counter now as it had since my autumn ache to keep a bit of summer during the long winter ahead had caused me to dig a clump from the garden before frost and bring it indoors.

I’d glanced at it with appreciation many times yet this night something much more intense began to happen. My eyes connected to that one bloom and as I gazed ever more deeply into the profound beauty of this one, single, finite flower amidst all the other tangibles in the room, the house, the town, county, state, and whole, wide world, everything else faded away. Time suddenly stood absolutely still as my eyes fully met just one thing in the universe: this flower. Although the moment felt electrically charged, my body relaxed more and more deeply as every thought, care, or worry it had contained just moments before melted completely away until, with nearly limp muscles, I had to sit down.

The moment had transformed into a deep meditation between my soul and this exquisite flower, gracing me with an absolute and complete peace that I’d experienced just one other time several years earlier—and completely forgotten.

I knew in that moment that this or any simple object of nature was all I would ever need to re-connect with this deep peace any time I wished or needed to for the remainder of my life. I later named it my Georgia O’Keeffe moment and subsequently immersed myself in the brilliant artist’s story and paintings to learn what pathway had led her to discover the profound beauty of one small, single flower that had so fully awakened my spirit.

In time—and to this day—O’Keeffe’s painting Yellow Cactus Flower became the center of my living area, a beautiful analogy to a deep transformation in my life that began with that move in 1999 from upstate New York’s Catskill Mountains.


About Mary Jo Doig

At the turn of the millennium, I arrived at a cross-road that brought me to a splendid, if unforeseen place, almost as if I were a traveler on Robert Frost's The Road Less Traveled. I was single again, my three children were grown and building their lives, I'd experienced a health issue and was working on an improved lifestyle. I also ached to do two other things: (1) change my long human services career in upstate New York's Catskill Mountains, where winter seemed to be at least seven months out of every year, and (2) move to a warmer place in the universe. My decision: did I want to continue on the path I'd been following pretty much all my life, or could I gather my then-fragile courage and start life brand new somewhere else? These were scary thoughts for a single woman in her late 50s. Five hundred miles away, though, I fell in love with a new mountain range, Virginia's Blue Ridge Mountains, where I knew not a soul except my daughter who was attending college in the Shenandoah Valley, and I moved. I rented a tiny cabin on a mountain in the woods and lived there in solitude for two years, working in a new career by day and, when home, communing with the incredible natural beauty that surrounded me. There I also began to write my life stories, which were aching for release. I joined the Story Circle Network in early 2001, a rich place in cyberspace for women life writers, where I strengthened my written voice and began sharing my stories. I found so many opportunities to grow: 10 year facilitator for an online writing circle of women writers across the country; thirteen year editor of the "True Words from Real Women" section of the quarterly Journal; a reader and reviewer of women's memoirs for the SCN Book Review site; program chair for two Stories from the Heart national conferences in Austin, T. Presently I'm teaching Women's Life-Writing and Older Women's Legacy workshops in my part of the world in Central Virginia and facilitating the ongoing Circle of Memories Writing Circle (formerly an OWL workshop that continued on) at the Crozet Public Library. I am blessed with three wonderful children, a son and two daughters; a small, huge-hearted family; dear friends; my beagle Addie and cat Button. My hobbies include reading, writing, editing, cooking, gardening, quilting, knitting, biking, and simply being with the profound beauty of the mountains that embrace my small two acres in the Blue Ridge. The life stories I began writing in 2001 have grown deeper with time, re-writes, and personal growth. All these years later, I'm scheduled to publish my memoir, Stitching a Patchwork Life, in 2018.
This entry was posted in Gifts, Gratitude, In the Kitchen, Mother Nature, Simplicity. Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to One Small, Single Flower

  1. susanideus says:

    A simply breath-taking story, MJ. I could feel the reverent stillness of that moment. Thank you for sharing it.


  2. So poignant. Thanks for sharing this.


  3. Pattie Burke says:

    Mary Jo–Beautiful! I love your story and–as you might guess–your Georgia O’Keeffe flower! And,oh, the beautiful descriptive landscape writing. The illustration sets the mood for your story themes. I love it all!


  4. Linda Hoye says:

    I love the way you write, Mary Jo. You draw us in to where you are both physically and emotionally. I am happy that you started this blog and look forward to reading each and every post.


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