Monday, July 20, 2009
Fresh-Cut Flowers in the Hall
I remember how difficult it was, when I was a child, to avoid picking all those flowers, spread at my feet, there for the picking—lovely, delicate, easy to grasp, hand-height for a little one, and as a result softly brushing my fingertips, and so easy to uproot (if the stem did not easily give way). I found it hard to ignore a thing so fragrant, so colorful, and so delightful.
So yes, I am the guilty one. I picked way more tame flowers than I ever should have. My mother thought it was an incurable obsession with me. She thought I was a flower-picking-addict.
But with so many reprimands, reminders, and a bit more maturity, I finally quit ripping up other’s flowers. In fact, somewhere along the way, I came to view cutting domestic flowers as a sin of damnation. And so, with that awareness finally soundly instilled within my mind, flowers were left in the garden. The only few that made their way into my house were the broken off, or over-weighted, or the lying on the ground, or those sure to suffer an early death by an untimely frost. Occasionally wild flowers, and of course, in addition to that, those ‘few’ bouquets that came from a flower shop for a special occasion or to sooth a particularly vicious attack of PMS.
But now, more recently, I’ve come to realize that flowers have a sharing purpose that mimics the sharing joys of steadfast friends. As a child, summer visits with friends, were always accompanied by a leisurely stroll in the garden. This was the entertainment…the sharing…the happening…the event of the visit. It was assumed, and I guess forever it has been, that the purpose of flowers is to allow the gardener or grower to ultimately partake of the beauty, fragrance, color, and exquisite form of the flowers with others, in a shared setting. What other good reason to plant and maintain a flower garden?
For those who grow them, for those who tend them, can there be a greater compliment than the visitor who says, “After tea, may we take a walk in your garden?”
I remember those strolls in gardens with my parents and their friends when I was a child. The fragrance, and the most pleasant of conversations. Almost as if the verbal exchanges were set to a rule like some other rather humorous rules we had. ‘No singing at the table, no laughing in the kitchen’, and when visitors came ‘no gawking out the window’.
And, in the garden, a rule as well – ‘no ill-speaking or gossiping allowed’. A rule never given voice, as the others were, but still always given respect.
It was as if, through some magical aura in the garden, even the tartest of individuals skirted their normally chronic desire to gossip or be critical of others. Here it was as sacrilegious to gossip or put people down as speaking out loud during church. And there was no vulgarity. Here conversation clung like sticky burrs to a graceful protocol. (Not always the case when Hub and I plant potatoes together, but we’re talking flowers here).
But now, what I’m finding more and more, is that fewer visitors respond with enthusiasm to an invitation to walk in the garden. A large number of superficial concerns come into play – some real, some imagined. They might step in doggie-do with their new designer shoes on the way there. Spiders might parachute down onto their stylized tuffets. Insects might attack exposed skin and leave unsightly welts. Allergies might be provoked. Burrs might cling to their slacks.
And unfortunately, there is no way, in these conditions, to resurrect the enthusiasm that once was so potent in garden ramblers. No way to conquer the foreboding. And so, without a garden stroll, my flowers are not being shared. And without that, those same flowers have little purpose – like a friendship without a friend.
Or a special happening with no place for the event.
So I’ve returned to plucking flowers – from my own garden, that is. Without conscience, I cut them when they bud, before they bud, unmindful of their private progress. Yes, I do. I chop them off and put fresh-cut flowers in the hall. They blush at each passerby and sweep them with a dusting of delicate fragrance, without the dreaded garden walk-about.
And so, yes, I have fresh-cut flowers in the hall and as warped as it may sound, since I put them there, I swear coffee and dinner conversations are more gracious. The topics are more pleasant; the mood of visitors lighter. And troubles and vexations, perched on lips, fully meant-to-be-told, are discounted and dismissed.
It’s the kind of thing that happens during garden strolls…or when there are fresh-cut flowers in the hall.