It is the dead of winter, the grass is brown, many trees are bare, but scattered around my yard and throughout the south are jewels of white, and various shades of pink amidst the deep evergreen leaves. The elegant Camellia is in bloom. Despite the incursions of the polar vortex, and the short days the Camellia is doing just fine. The moniker of Steel Magnolia has become synonymous with southern women and we should be flattered by the term. The Magnolia is also an elegant blossom, it’s fragrance enchants and it has been around since the time of the dinosaurs. That is one hardy plant. However I would like to point out it blooms in the spring and summer as a rule with a few varieties blooming in the fall as well hardly a challenging time for flowering plants. Whereas the Camellia blooms at a time of year when most flowering plants are dormant. The Camellia once established can even thrive without supplemental moisture. The delicate blossom of the Camellia gives us beauty in the bleak days of winter, a reminder that spring will be just around the corner, we can hold on. So I would propose cast-iron Camellia to be just as appropriate as Steel Magnolia to describe a southern woman. I have always been drawn to strong women characters. Nancy Drew was one of the first and there have been countless others from the classic Jane Austen characters to the hilarious but independent strong willed women created by Janet Evanovich. I am surrounded by examples of cast-iron camellias in my daily life. Friends who have battled cancer, One whose husband tried to have her murdered, another who lost her spouse unexpectedly and yet another who holds her family together as her husband battles a debilitating disease. All of them face their adversities with grace and faith, they are cast-iron Camellias who with humor, strength and perseverance face the bleak days of personal winter like the beautiful Camellias that brighten our landscape. Some of them are sassy, some are quiet and reserved, mush like the various flower forms from single to formal double the Camellia varieties can offer. I am inspired by them and aspire to face adversity with such grace. The characters I write tend to be cast-iron Camellias as well. They range from sassy bourbon drinking matriarchs to prim and proper ladies. Some cleave to old-fashioned notions and others blaze a modern trail, redefining what it means to be a southern woman. Almost all of them are cast-iron strong and Camellia delicate, complex and inspirational. Now what southern woman would not want to be described like that!