Story and Photos by Ava Diercksen

If there was one word that could define the state of the world right now, it would be “canceled”. As global health concerns have intensified, every citizen of the world has felt a change in their life one way or another. It can almost start to feel as though life itself has been canceled. 

This piece was originally going to be a photo story about the annual Spring Garden Festival at the beautiful Kanapaha Botanical Gardens, a lush escape located just 15 minutes away from the University of Florida’s campus. What would have been a plentiful gathering of people celebrating the blossoming of spring flowers and welcoming the new season, was soon rightfully canceled in the interest of protecting public health. After traveling home and starting the practice of social distancing like the rest of the world, I began to wonder how I could write a piece that resembled my original idea given that I was becoming accustomed to only seeing the four walls of my bedroom each day. This led me to ponder an even bigger question of how I could maintain a sense of normalcy in my life amid extreme change and unpredictability.

I was walking through my backyard one day when I noticed how vibrant the colors of green, pink, and yellow were on all of the flowers and trees. I looked around to see that the grass was still growing underneath my feet and the sun was still shining above my head even after the news that school was canceled for the semester arrived. 

The realization came that although the Spring Garden Festival had been canceled, the blooming of spring flowers had not been and they were still going to be there for us to enjoy in years to come. Until then, there are flowers all around us that we do not have to travel far to see. For me, I only had to walk a few feet outside to spot blooming flowers and it reminded me to stop and smell the roses. A way to remain connected to a normal life that may start to feel distant is through being present in the moment and connecting with the natural world, the things that we can tangibly feel, see, and smell. Although what may happen tomorrow is uncertain, there is comfort in knowing that one can always stop to smell the roses that are certainly close by. Before we know it, normal life will return, just like the flowers that always return to bloom each year.