My youngest son turned in The Flower Project yesterday. For decades every ninth grader in our small town (even my best friend remembers this from her own long ago ninth grade year) has had to turn in The Flower Project.
The Flower Project: Explore and discover and pick and press sixty different Texas wildflowers. Record the date you picked the flower and put it in a photo album along with a tag naming it. This is for a huge portion of the last semester's Biology grade.
I've helped three of my four sons with The Flower Project. My oldest son moved to California at the beginning of ninth grade so he didn't have the project. I'll admit, I was happy about that. It's a challenging project! Sixty different flowers is a lot of flowers!
And yet, I'll also grudgingly admit, my boys and I have learned a few things while working on The Flower Project.
First, holy moley Texas has a lot of gorgeous wildflowers! I mean, seriously!!
Second, when you come across a large grouping of yellow flowers that look the same-- take a closer look. True, many of them are the same, but there are groupings of different yellow flowers as well. Now, look closer. There are tiny red ones and itty bitty fluffy purple ones! Oh, my! Look even closer.... see that orange speck? See that it has petals? It's another flower! Although it's true that you've found a group of mostly the same yellow flower, if you take time to peek and prod you'll see that within it are other friends. Many similar in appearance and others not at all the same! And now".
Third, move onto another grouping of flowers. These ones are blue and seem to want to take over an entire field. But, wait! What do we see here? All kinds of completely new flowers--white, orange, yellow, and pink--that didn't even exist only two miles away in the yellow flower patch! Once again we are treated to an entirely new neighborhood of flowers living together. Oops! Don't disturb that bee! And ... yikes!! We just saw a copperhead snake! It would seem that our neighborhood of flowers live in collaboration with creatures that sort of scare us. That's okay because we can accept the danger of the copperhead and appreciate it's important existence while we step nervously back, heading toward the relative safety of the country road.
Fourth, while we walk in nature and listen to its sounds, while we take in its scents and breathe in its freshness, we waken and excite new sides to ourselves and our children. Sometimes the new side is silent. Sometimes it's vocal. Sometimes it hums and moves with more confidence, and sometimes it pulls forth a quieter grace. Always, it's nice to know this part of ourselves for a bit.
Fifth, when we think we've found all of the flowers we possibly can, though it's nowhere near sixty different kinds, we look again a few weeks later. Oh my! It's all different now! Some of our yellow and red flowered friends are still here, and some have gone away, but now we are greeted with brand new purple and pink and orange and white flowers! And now we also remember to be careful so we don't disturb the copperheads. They live there too, and they can kill us. Though they have better things to do and we'd like to leave them to it. We're seasoned explorers now and have communicated an understanding with our dangerous new friends. We didn't write up a contract exactly, or talk to each other with words, but we communicated our needs and have an unspoken agreement. We don't intend to hurt each other.
Sixth, although the work of pressing and labeling and learning about each flower seems tedious, it's also interesting. We learn a bit about when we can go find that elusive red flower we've been looking for, and where we'll most likely find it. We feel surprised to learn that it's the tedious work that can often bring enlightenment to us as flower finders, but also to others who haven't had time to find flowers. To people who are not in the business of doing The Flower Project. Without the labeling and pressing and studying, we would have little to show them. There is suddenly value in taking the time to do the tedious work. Because, we want to share what we know.
Seventh, like the flowers we've found we are more beautiful and interesting when we surround ourselves with diversity. We blossom at times and let our friends blossom at other times and always we are all equally part of the same connected thing. The Community. The World. The Universe.
Eighth, even though I've been part of The Flower Project for a few years now I still don't know or remember or care what the names of the flowers are. It's enough for me to see and know and learn that there are so many different kinds and colors. But some people (including one of my sons) love to know the names and habits of the individual flower families. And in this way, we are different and good for each other. I'm nourished and he is nourished and we're all nourished in different ways.
Much like the flowers we're studying.
My youngest son handed in The Flower Project today, and it's the last one we'll do. I'm mostly relieved. It's a lot of work and worth a huge chunk of the biology grade. It's nice to have it over with!
But, also, we've gotten a lot of lovely things from The Flower Project.
And so, though I'm glad to never do it again, I'm also glad to know that ninth graders will continue with this lovely tradition.
Thanks in part to The Flower Project, for the rest of my life I will take time to peek at and appreciate and learn from the flowers.