Wednesday, January 2, 2008

African Violets -- jcarolek

African violets are some of the most beautiful flowers I have ever seen. I cannot discern a fragrance from them, but they are just perfect in their rich colors on dark green foliage. However, one or two have always been enough for me. Not for Cecelia.

Cecelia was a woman I met when I began working at the state library of Florida. I was a computer operator and the

only one for the library. Cecelia was one of the folks who added and removed books from the library inventory, using the then-popular OCLC system. She was one of about eight who performed these tasks.

While I had the entire computer room to myself, she and the others had to share an open office space, with tables and desks and such. Table space was of a premium so I was astounded to see that Cecelia had managed to dedicate an enter six-foot long table to.....African Violets. Yes, indeed. They were beautiful and she tended to them with the care of a mother. She could tell stories for hours about these flowers that were her passion.

Now, Cecelia was a bit odd to me. Not just because of the flowers, but because of some of the other "artifacts" she had around and beliefs she had. This mid to late forties woman, long divorced, had a large photo of herself as a bride walking the aisle displayed on her desk. She also had some rather "different" theories on things. For instance, she told me on several occasions that cancer was God's punishment for, if someone got cancer, it was because of their own sin. And she was convinced that aliens "borrowed" our electricity, which is what resulted in power outages. She had the TV with the "best color" in all of Tallahassee, due to her preferential treatment from the aliens. Her daughter and granddaughter BOTH had the ability to "disappear" into thin air (apparently happened a lot while shopping in the mall) AND, she had, in fact, once had a face to face encounter with an alien on an elevator in a Miami hotel......

Still, she was funny to talk to, and I just marveled that someone could have such a different perception of the world from mine.

One morning, as I sat out in the "big main room" working on a computer while I was performing backups on the system, Cecelia arrived at work, went directly to her African violets and started tossing them, one by one into the trash can. Stunned, I just watched. I could not believe my eyes, and I was afraid to ask, for I was never certain she was operating on all cylinders. Eventually though, my curiosity got the better of me and I had to ask. "Cecelia, why are you throwing away your flowers?"

She turned to me, taking a break in her task and informed me very clearly that, "someone has been poisoning me with fish food. They put the fish food in the plants." I told her I was sorry to see the flowers being thrown away, but she was adamant.

So, to this day, when I see an African violet, I am reminded of a somewhat "different" individual, whose voice I can still hear telling me that she was poisoned by fish food and so the plants must go.

And when I see how others analyze events, and think, what kind of logic are they following, I think to myself of Cecelia, and am reminded that we all see our world very differently. Very differently, indeed.

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