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A Photographic Journey of Wishes And Regrets

Florality (photo by Vicki Carroll)

Florality (photo by Vicki Carroll)

A World With Regrets

The oft-used adage, "Stop and smell the roses" comes from the autobiography of Walter Hagen, one of the greatest golfers in history. He was on to something. Studies show that taking the time to show gratitude for the good things in life, makes us happier and more content — things as simple as sipping your morning coffee in quiet solitude before you rush out the door, or, the deep inhalation of an honeysuckle vine before you cut it off of your fence line.

Imagine a world with no roses or honeysuckles! A world without flowers — their aroma, their beauty, their color, their medicinal powers — is like a world without poetry.

Flowering plants (angiosperms versus mosses, ferns, or gymnosperms) represent about 90% of the plant kingdom. There are over 295,000 varieties of flowering plants separately classified as annuals, perennials, biennials, and hybrids. There are wildflowers, rare flowers, climbers, creepers, flowering trees and shrubs, seed-producing versus spore-producing flowers, as well as species yet to be identified or determined. The menagerie of color and florality extends itself from mountain tops to coastlines, meadows to forests, and oceans to deserts. Flowers can live in water or on dry land. They can be cultivated atop a skyscraper or in your own backyard. Flowers have such tenacity, that given a miniscule amount of sun and water, they can literally grow out of the side of a brick wall or spring up along an asphalt highway.

It is hard to pick a favorite flower but we should all have one. Flowers have become the utilitarian symbol for joy and pleasure, love and romance, care and compassion, forgiveness, wellness, death or rebirth, and a litany of other human emotions. There are so many meanings attached to flowers that the Farmer's Almanac created an almanac of flowers: the lotus represents enlightenment and purity; the orchid represents beauty and refinement; the camellia means longing; the pink salvia (shown above) signifies longevity, esteem, and wisdom. Even different colored flowers have meanings attached to their color: crimson means mourning, orange expresses enthusiasm, white is associated with purity and innocence. Flowers can be simple or exotic. The Lily of the Valley is a tear drop of white petals encasing a clear, oval dew drop containing an amethyst-colored prize. The rare Bat Flower boasts orgasmic blue-black petals with hints of violet and a sheen of black luster contrasted with white whiskers. A daisy is a simple rosette of thin white petals surrounded by a yellow center.

Flowering plants respond to human voice. Yes, that's right — plants can hear you, or at least feel your negative or positive energy giving you a black or green thumb to prove it! Some plants even respond to touch (thigmotropic movement) such as the Venus fly-trap, the mimosa, and the sensitive plant. Magnolias bloom white but turn brown upon touch.

What's this got to do with wishes and regrets? The Kellogg School of Management reported in "Learning to Use Regret" that regret scored the highest of all negative emotions in the five functions of human emotion." We use flowers to show our regrets, pay our respects, make wishes known, and more. Flowering plants are the single moist poignant way (save a verbal apology) to express our regrets and we ALL have something we regret. Those contending no regrets in life will line-up for take-backs once they ever learn that the rest of us do.

Let not the flower wilt without acknowledging its presence in your life. Your limbic system will dance and your heart will join your senses in harmonious gratitude.

Intentionality (photo by Vicki Carroll)

Intentionality (photo by Vicki Carroll)

When You Wish Upon a . . . 'Dandelion'

The ubiquitous wildflower — the dandelion! Its rich-green leaves resemble a lion's tooth, yet its nectar boasts a perfect sweetness for both insects and humans. Every part of this plant can be eaten raw. There are at least 50 different ways to utilize the roots, leaves, and flowers of this common roadside plant we oft consider a 'weed.' Thick yellow flower clusters make naturistic crowns and necklaces for the young-at-heart. Some say the bright yellow flower resembles the sun, the hundreds of seeds in a puff ball resemble the stars, and the perfectly round puff ball itself resembles the moon. It is a celestial symbol literally at our feet. It is medicinal, nutritional, romantic, and tasty.

Arguably, the dandelion is life-sustaining and yet the majority of us scarcely give it a second glance . . . UNTIL . . . we want to make a wish! Dandelions represent life, rebirth, resilience, and hope. They are among the first of the plant kingdom to emerge following a harsh and unforgiving winter.

The dandelion doesn't shy away from being called a 'weed.' It knows its worth. Beneath blue skies, the weed scorned flower patiently awaits the eager heart to pick a stem, make a wish, and then blow . . .

The dandelion smiles in the face of the sun as we blow its seed for miles. Wishes are for the future; regrets are for the past!

Where Shrooms Grow (photo by Vicki Carroll)

Where Shrooms Grow (photo by Vicki Carroll)

The Best Weapons Against Regret

Mushrooms are fungi AND the largest lifeform on earth. The largest living organism is a 'honey mushroom' in an Oregon national forest.

Genetically closer to humans than plants, mushrooms are like children — they grow best under precise conditions and are acutely sensitive to their surroundings. They require very little energy to grow, but also require the perfect blend of heat, humidity, and air in order to thrive. Some of them glow in the dark!

The majority of fungi exists secretively underground where it facilitates the sharing of nutrients for plants and trees. Its underground mycelium (threadlike vegetation) shares information with the forest network about drought, disease, and pestilence. Its purpose as a lifeform is to ensure survival! Though it can lie dormant for years, it is always community-minded. Certain types of mushrooms even repel termites and carpenter ants.

Mushrooms are unassumingly beautiful yet they can be deceptively toxic. Relatively speaking, few species are fatal if ingested but unfortunately, those that are toxic, resemble their safe, edible, and medicinal counterparts. The deadliest species, the Death Cap, closely resembles the delectable straw mushroom (which also resembles the edible button mushroom). The Death Cap also resembles caesar's mushroom, so named because it was the favorite edible shroom of a Roman emperor.

Regrets are like poisonous mushrooms. They evolve from an incongruence in REAL self and IDEAL self. Comparatively, regret is the mycelium of the psyche secretly striving for survival while the exposed fungi makes us both known and vulnerable to the outside world.

Julius Caesar once said, “Cowards die many times before their death, but the valiant never taste of death but once.” Native American's say "a danger foreseen is a danger half-avoided." The Native Americans say it better — the best weapon against poisonous regret is the wisdom of foresight coupled with honorable intent. A sharp tongue is regret's favorite tool.

Last Wish (photo by Vicki Carroll)

Last Wish (photo by Vicki Carroll)

First Regrets and Last Wishes

The first known drawing of a North American butterfly was the work of John White during one of Sir Walter Raleigh's expeditions to Virginia - it was an eastern tiger swallowtail (pictured here). It is the state butterfly of four U.S. States.

This common swallowtail is one of four related species. It is diurnal and solitary preferring the nectar of red or pink flowers ranging from lilac and phlox to aromatic lilies and wild cherry. Their wings continue to flap as they feed. The female tiger swallowtail mimics the poisonous pipevine swallowtail. In its caterpillar stage, the eastern tiger swallowtail prefers tulip trees and sweet bay magnolias, among others. Sadly, this winged beauty only lives about a month in the wild despite the orange-forked defense mechanism which sprays a stinky substance on those that threaten it as a caterpillar.

It is regretful that such beauty only lasts for such a short period of time on this earth, but these and other butterflies make up for their earthly impermanence by passing along immortal messages. It is one of the most commonly reported "signs" from a deceased loved one (another sign being rainbows). It is no surprise then, that butterflies represent the life cycle. has a litany of inspiring butterfly visitations and anecdotes. Among them, a quote:

"Just like the butterfly, I too will awaken in my own time." —

As humans, our first regret varies. Also as humans, our last wish is usually too late! If we too, like the eastern tiger swallowtail, had but a month to live, what might we do different?