Hurrah! For the Thistle – How the Thistle Club got its name

In preparation for the time when someone will ask us “so, what’s with this thistle fixation?”, I have decided to share a little backstory. It all started just about one year ago when Mary Beth and I first discovered our shared love of writing and had the harebrained idea of creating a writers group as a sort of critique/support/therapy group.

We were a go in no time and added Eve to the mix. Then our thoughts turned to what we should call ourselves. At the time, the thistle moniker seemed to be a matter of convenience and what looked and sounded good at the time – Mary Beth happened to have a wax seal imprinted with a thistle motif and thought it would be cool to have a code of conduct complete with official seal. Eve and I wholeheartedly agreed. And thus, the Thistle Club was born.

But, in time our prickly nickname would prove to be a God thing. It would also prove how far-reaching His plans are at times. You see, to really grasp the full picture we need to do a little time traveling.

Our first stop will be the day that Mary Beth got that little, unassuming brass seal. It was bought in Williamsburg, VA when she was 15. She didn’t know why she needed it, only that she wanted it…And the choice of the thistle was a direct result of everyone else gravitating toward the rose seal and her innate drive not to follow the crowd.

The next stop is November 2008 when I (along with my sister, also a Thistle) went to Scotland. It had been a dream of ours to visit the land of brogues and kilts for years, and one day God provided both the means and the opportunity to fulfill this goal. I completely fell in love with Scotland – with the beautiful country, the welcoming people, the sometimes brutal and heartbreaking history, and with every single Scottish lad I laid eyes on. (Sorry, I can’t resist that accent!)

Anyway, fastforward past the day our group was formed to about mid-November 2012 when I came across an article about how the thistle came to be adopted as Scotland’s national symbol. (To read the article, click the following link: The Scottish Thistle – A National Symbol of Scotland – http://www.scottish-at-heart.com/scottish-thistle.html#ixzz2CWi632Lz) The article included this following description of the humble flower:

“These physical attributes – the delicately beautiful flower heads, the viciously sharp thorns, it’s stubborn and tenacious grip on the land, and it’s defiant ability to flourish in spite of efforts to remove it – I think that they make this plant the perfect Scottish Emblem!”

Of course, we thought that this description was just as perfect for the emblem of a writers group. I think it sums up what a writer should be like – delicate with our choices (words, themes, story lines, character attributes, etc.), as vicious with our characters as needed to really make them work for their happy endings, tenacious in our passion for and commitment to our craft and possessing the ability to flourish despite criticism and rejection. Kind of neat how God works things out like this…

And now, the thistle motif repeats in our surroundings yet again: While looking for a book for a student (most of us Thistles work together at an academic library), I spied a curious-looking book spine with elaborate scrollwork in pale green, gold and black. Upon further inspection, it turned out to be “Scottish Humorous Poetry.” Of course, I snatched it up and checked it out to myself immediately. I had to laugh out loud when, there on the very first page of the book, I read the following lines (which come from the poem/song “Hurrah! For the Thistle” by Alexander Maclagan):

“’Tis the flow’r that laughs at the storm as it blows, For the greater the tempest the greener it grows.”

     Now THAT is everything a writer – everything a Thistle – should strive to be. Rejections are just guideposts for revision. Rejections are also just opinions. Take in the criticism, apply what seems to be legitimately constructive, make whatever revisions you feel necessary and try again. And again. Setbacks are merely tests of our resolve; perserverence is everything. Each new attempt is a new green leaf and a new thorn on your stem that will help you laugh at the next big tempest that blows your way.

Blessings,

J.I. O’Neal

Author of The Riverdale PD Series

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