Monday, May 30, 2011

Please Do Not Frown Upon

I know almost nothing about trees, shrubs, flowers and other plant life.  OK, I know almost nothing about botany.  This ignorance is somewhat embarrassing as I’m so passionate about birding. To be a good ornithologist, one needs to be a good botanist.  Knowing habitat is crucial to understanding the locale of any given Aves species, not to mention its nesting grounds, feeding techniques, and migration range and timing. I need to be a better botanist. 
But today, just as a non-birder might say “Look at that pretty bird,” I would say something to the effect “Isn’t that an interesting tree?”  Tsk, tsk.  But all of you gardeners and botanists of the world, please do not frown upon my ignorance—I’m beginning to show an interest in that oh so complex taxonomy of the plant world.
I would also confess to knowing some, but not nearly enough, about human relationships.  This ignorance is somewhat embarrassing as I’m so passionate about family and friends.  Understanding relationships is crucial to, well—seems I can’t think of anything NOT tied to healthy human relationships, including safety, food and shelter.  But there is nothing like feeling frowned upon to drive a person into a self-imposed sense of isolation.  I’ve watched others, and I’ve caught myself (often too late), inserting foot into mouth with casual verbal proficiency.  And yet it seems the most common angst between humans involves no words; it is the casual facial frown of one, to another.  There is nothing like being in the middle of a dialogue with a friend, family member, or co-worker, and noting the sudden placement of a frown upon their face.  I shrink like a—what are those plants called?
And then there is the interaction with one’s (or another’s) offspring.  Seems from the time they are babes with large heads and small bodies we humans are smiling at them.  The babes become children and we smile over their cute (and often wise) stories.  The children become teenagers and we suddenly have an innate response to frown at them, over just about everything.  Sometimes the frown is hiding a sense of parental fear; sometimes angst; sometimes bewilderment; and sometimes serious discontent when trying to grasp their new spoken and unspoken language (including facial expressions that involve expert eye-rolling techniques). 
Several years ago I caught myself in the habit of frowning in the direction of a then teenage offspring.  I realized my intent was loving concern; I realized the view from the offspring’s shoes was being frowned upon.  It took work on my part.
I also have a vivid memory of a family portrait attempted a few months after I survived a fairly major medical trauma, per the unfortunate schedule of a new church directory.  In the age of digital photography, the photographer took several pictures, and then showed them to us to pick our favored portrait.  Honest to goodness I looked like I was frowning in every one of them.  More pictures were taken, and more frowns.  The next scheduled family was waiting in the church hallway; I could hear the Mom challenging all to “not wrinkle” while attempting a calm wait.  The steadfast photographer kept trying to get a better portrait, sans frown.  My teenage offspring was dismayed.  All the photos looked the same:  my mouth was smiling, my eyes were frowning.  The frown was hiding pain.  Neither the photographer nor the offspring knew the root cause of the frown.  Finally, one photo, the best of the worst, made it into the church directory; and one 8”x10” copy made it into a storage box, somewhere in our home.  Frowning eyes trump smiling lips any day.
But in recent years, I’ve noted how easy it is for us healthy humans to frown upon our lives (or the lives of others), our family, and our friends.  I’m not talking about silent, purposeful concentration.  I’m talking about a non-verbal communication response to another’s words; quite often a loved one’s words. 
Recently I had opportunity to walk through the lovely gardens of the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.  I was amazed by the many lovely flowers, shrubs and trees, nameless to me without their neatly printed nametags, planted in the ground before them.  I came upon the below sign and it gave me pause.  I’ve about decided I need to look at this sign every day, especially when getting ready to interact with other homo sapiens.  If you can’t clearly read the words as attached to this blog, just “click on” the picture for a magnified viewing: 

It would appear that both plants and humans are harmed, when frowned upon.


  1. I LOVE the sign!!

    I have a memory of my mom "frowning" while I was singing a solo in church. I got so upset, I faltered on the song and then attacked her afterward. What I know now is that she frowns when she is concentrating and I've learned to adjust but it's amazing how sensitive I still am to all of her most subtle facial expressions--and I'm remembering that i am older now than she was when I sang that solo. Being a mom is hard and so is being a daughter.

  2. What a lovely post!
    It is easy to say what we won't, can't, shouldn't and shan't do. But when it comes to human emotion, this thing called feelings, we react often as our hearts and minds tell us to. After all, we are all--each one, imperfect, this much is true.

    Your Friend,AA


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