I’ve been a fan of crepe myrtles since childhood. I’m sure there were a few of them scattered around our farming community back then, but the only ones I recall were at my grandmother’s house. Grandmama Hill had several in her back yard that were loaded each summer with colorful blooms.
There’s a lot to like about crepe myrtles. They’re not temperamental nor demanding of our attention. They even seem to thrive when completely ignored. Evidence of their self-sufficiency is found in hedge rows and along roadsides. On rare occasions we can still find them at old homesites, standing guard over an empty house or keeping company with a lonely chimney.
Crepe myrtles are sturdy too, one of the hardest woods there is. If you want to put a chain saw to a test, they are a worthy opponent. A few incisions and the chain will need sharpening or adding to the scrap iron pile. That’s firsthand information and not hearsay.
My guitar-picking buddy Gary Mixon says their wood was used to make ball bearings before metal became the standard. Whoever whittled those bearings probably went through a lot of knives, nicked fingers, and frustration. It wasn’t a good idea, I would think, to sneak up behind an intense carver trying to make quota and tap him on the shoulder.
A wide variety of trees, shrubs, and flowers reward us splendidly for our efforts, but crepe myrtles get my vote for the top spot. They offer exceptional beauty and expect almost nothing in return except space and a little pruning if one is so inclined.
On a July drive down US Highway 41 south of Vienna, I noticed two rows of crepe myrtles in full bloom lining the long driveway of some friends. I’ve driven by their home countless times over the years, but I don’t remember ever seeing such an impressive display of color.
What was especially captivating was the dark red hue of the flowers. I wondered if they were a hybrid variety or maybe a special fertilizer deserved some credit. I made a mental note to ask later but didn’t think about them again for a few days. While working in our yard one afternoon, a smile unexpectedly surfaced when I realized our crepe myrtles were adorned with the same red blossoms.
It reminded me of how easy it is to overlook the beauty and blessings which are already ours to enjoy. Sometimes we get so used to seeing what’s nearby that we take it for granted. Mickey Gilley had a hit song with a memorable line, “I overlooked an orchid while searching for a rose.” He was singing about love, but the same holds true for many things and probably always has.
Twenty or so years ago our son, Seth, was a freshman at Georgia Tech. A couple of his friends from Atlanta came with him to our part of Georgia for a weekend visit. They drove out to my parents’ home in the country late one night and were mesmerized by the quiet darkness. A black canvas sprinkled with a million twinkling stars was something I had unknowingly grown accustomed to. Familiarity had displaced my childhood awe. It took someone who lived under bright city lights to help me see what I had stopped looking for.
Sometimes it’s tempting to think in terms of what’s lacking in our lives rather than counting the blessings we already have. The Apostle Paul said, “I have learned therefore to be content in whatsoever state I am.” Contentment begins with gratitude, I believe, or at least it’s an essential part.
When I realized the gorgeous flowers down the road are the same as those growing in our yard, I found it quite amusing. I didn’t laugh out loud but came rather close. Now I will appreciate that beautiful scene even more each time I drive by. Those stunning red blooms are a lovely reminder not to overlook the blessings all around us. Some we can even reach out and touch.
There’s a lot to like about crepe myrtles, and that’s not something I recently decided. I’ve been a fan since childhood.