Tough Like a Pansy

The pansies outside the Embassy Suites in Lexington were toast Tuesday afternoon. At least I thought they were. Planted a week ago, said the gal at the front desk, someone had forgotten to water them. They were beyond wilted. But after a gully-washer of a storm that night, they stood back up the next morning all perky.

I’m like that. So can you be.

I’m in Kentucky on a one-week Leadership Idaho Agriculture (LIA) tour. The LIA is one of many state organizations around the nation dedicated to training agriculturally-grounded leaders in government, business, nonprofits, and communities. I went through a program in my home state of California, not Idaho, but reciprocity agreements allow me to be a member in Idaho.

Anyone who’s ever taken part in ag leadership programs understands that these tours aren’t just vacations, but an opportunity to learn about states, people, and places who are similar to us and wildly dissimilar. From the moment we leave to the moment we come home, our schedules are choreographed. Exhaustion on these trips is a given. Every day (and often, night) is a long one.

The Professor and I flew in to Kentucky from Boise a day early and arranged to attend a few events before the tour started: a farm to table fundraiser put on by a nonprofit that addresses food and nutrition insecurity, and a fundraiser for a local community park (the Hot Brown Showdown). I’m sure that added to the exhaustion, but we’re glad we did both. When the others arrived, we got right on it again.

This week we’ve visited distilleries (Kentucky is known for bourbon), a retirement home for racehorses and a successful racing and breeding barn (also known for that), a huge gate, feeder (and much more) manufacturer, a large wheat, corn, and soybean farm, Berea College’s agricultural food and farming program to address food insecurity in Appalachia, and what must be the world’s most eclectic convenience/gas station, Buc-Ee’s. I know I’ve forgotten something. We’re not done yet.

It’s Thursday now, but by Tuesday night I was, like the pansies in front of the hotel, beyond wilted. And then came Wednesday, Hump Day, and inexplicably, I rallied. I’m not sure if I finally adjusted to the time change or what, but I awoke ready for more.

“You’re looking bright-eyed and bushy-tailed considering we’re halfway through,” said Rick, our fearless leader, Wednesday morning.

Yes, I was, I realized.

And then I walked outside and saw the pansies. They were standing erect, ready to meet the sun. It occurred to me that a pansy, namesake of ninnies and lightweights, is actually a pretty tough cookie. I’ll be a pansy like that.

How so? Beyond being tired, I twisted my knee at the airport in Boise before we even left the ground. It hurts but Rick keeps me going with Tylenol every day and invariably waits by the bus steps to make sure I don’t stumble getting out. I keep going because I don’t want to miss a minute. Every night, though, I am done. Springing back up the next morning always surprises me, but I do.

Pansies got a bad rap somewhere along the way, I think. They’re tough. So next time someone tries to belittle you for being weak or sensitive like a pansy, throw your shoulders back and take it as a compliment. You’re tough, like a pansy.

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