Saturday, June 29, 2013


You never want to start out writing something you know is going to hurt someone else, especially when the truth involves flowers. The truth is I hate flowers, not flowers in general. I can appreciate a well-tended garden full of blooming botanical bits. I love that moment in spring when the Longenecker lilac garden at the University of Wisconsin Arboretum explodes in unimaginable shades of purple. I'll use flowers as props to accessorize a short-term project or to enhance a photo shoot. I love the way flowers paint our landscapes with a palette so rich it can only be attributed to a higher power. I can bury my nose in the heady fragrance of a bouquet of peonies but once that first petal drops I'm over it. I wish I could be more like Rick who loves a handful of Bellis Perennis daisies picked from the side of the road and set in a ceramic vase next to the reading light in the library. His appreciation of flowers is an essential part of his being. Flowers can quell an emotional low. They are the first essential he purchases for our room when we're on vacation. They complete the picture that he paints of what his happiness looks like. The scent and knowledge that something of his choosing is now a part of his temporary environment adds an element of security and serenity to a home away from home.
Rick sees flowers as an extension of life. He sees them as in a vase half -full. I, on the other hand, can only see a vase half empty holding a scraggly bunch of dried up stacks wallowing in murky putrid smelling water. My budding floral phobia is very focused. It centers only on the cut kind, the ones you find at florists or murder yourself out of a cutting garden or roadside find.
In a floral shop they sit in metal cans behind glass faced freezer doors like puppies at a pet store, inbreed with hidden disease. Trapped and caged their sources of sustenance cut from them pleading for someone to take them to a flower hospice where they can live out their dying days. And if that weren't enough, stacked in the corner are funeral wreaths and bouquets, a reminder to all, of the link between flowers and death. Who ever brought chocolates or jewelry to a funeral? No, you send flowers so the dead don't die alone.
I don't know if it is a humanitarian concern like animal rights or it's the way I connect flowers in my mind with death, but cut flowers creep me out. Even before the first petal has fallen I hear those pastel screams that will soon descend into moans and then gasps as their lovely petals begin to unfold. The edges turn brown and then one by one fall to the floor leaving only a skeleton, the bones of a once beautiful princess of nature.
The last job I want to perform is mortician to the horticultural crowd. It's that last act of internment where you pull the remaining stacks from the scummy water a trail of gummy slim clinging to its severed limbs, the stench of death over-powering making your stomach churn in disapproval.  The last part of the ritual being the washing of the vase. Gently running the ceramic casket through a soft warm wash of soapy scented water until the stench of death has been washed away. Then wiping away any physical memory of what was with a dry cloth and putting the little container of death back on the shelf in anticipation of its next sweet, sweet bouquet.
There's no way I can deprive Rick or any of the many who only see the beauty in a bouquet. I envy the way their mouths are drawn up at the sides as they breathe in the scent of a flower. I wish I could find the emotional lift they get from the presence of a bouquet in their midst the same way I wish I could find the reassurance a devout believer gets from their church but it's just not in me. So I will continue to appreciate what I can which is the pleasure of others. Happiness always trumps a grumpy disposition, just don't send flowers to my funeral.

Bedframe and Lilies
James Koch, photographer

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