Showing Persistence

Some ten years ago, not long after my husband Richard and I took up restoring the block of degraded urban creek that parallels one edge of the reclaimed former industrial property where we live, we rescued a clump of Rocky Mountain iris that had been uprooted by a grader-blade on a remote county road. A native westerner, this wild iris flourishes in unplowed, spring-wet grasslands, its blossoms tinting whole meadows blue-violet.

We carefully wrapped the plants in damp sheets of newspaper, brought them home, and dug them in just above the creek. The next spring we searched for their pale green leaves among the crowded blades of sedge and grass with no success. We were disappointed, but we had weeds to pull and other transplants to tend. As our stream-side restoration project began to flourish, we forgot the wild iris.

Some years later, that iris appeared right where we’d planted it, its slender, stiffly flattened green leaves contrasting with the winter-dry grass. Over the next month, half a dozen slender, pointed buds rose and burst into bloom, the pale blue flowers floating like so many butterflies.

Then came a drought the likes of which hadn’t occurred here in several centuries. Our spring-fed creek dried up for weeks, and the iris disappeared. The creek’s flow eventually returned, but the ethereal blossoms didn’t–not the next spring, or the next. We figured the wild iris was gone. Until its pale blue flowers reappeared six springs later.


Earlier this year, Richard said, “I wonder if the iris will bloom this year.” We searched for its stiff leaves and didn’t find them. Then, a few weeks later, he was picking up windblown trash along the creek and spotted the first two blossoms. “The iris are back!” he called, and I scrambled down the bank to admire them.

That these tough native plants with their delicate flowers persist at all along our thread of urban creek, bounded by a parking lot on one bank and a former industrial property on the other seems to me a small miracle. I’m grateful for the gift of their lives, and the lesson they demonstrate in persistence.


Here’s your writing prompt: In this short piece, I used the life of a wild iris plant to represent persistence. Does something or someone in your life symbolize persistence for you? How would you tell the story to demonstrate–show, not tell–that particular quality? Try writing your story of persistence without ever using the word. (Note that in this piece I didn’t actually use the word until the very last sentence.) Go for it!

3 responses to “Showing Persistence

  1. It’s funny – as I read the story I was thinking “the power of persistence” – and didn’t realize until I re-read it after the writing prompt that you never did use that word!!

  2. That’s a great compliment, Cynthia! That’s the power of “show” versus “tell.”

  3. Susan,
    It makes sense that you would show the power of persistence through nature. The writing prompt makes us think of our life focus that moves through us to act as symbol for our values and life narrative.

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