The world does not need more practicality, more measured decisions, and sterile good sense like “in lieu of flowers.” The world needs beauty in all it’s extravagance.
I just finished reading Amy Stewart’s Flower Confidential. For a lot of the book, I felt conflicted. Cut flowers engineered to the point where they couldn’t reproduce, or give off scent, or survive without a host of chemical fungicides and pesticides. Stewart quotes one grower as saying, “I wouldn’t ever advise taking a bath in rose petals.” Not to mention the hazards these chemicals pose for the mostly underpaid and under-insured workers who employ them.
Yet, when I walk past mounds and bouquets of petals and green– lilies, orchids, tulips, gladiolas– and yes roses, of course, roses– something lifts in my soul. Maybe I wouldn’t be writing this paean to plant sex organs if it was summer and all the flowers I could want were just a mountain meadow away.
But it’s winter, and cold sucks the color from the ground and bleaches the sky. In the Botany of Desire, Michael Pollan wrote about the Dutch tulip craze, and throughout the book, he talks about how plants have turned us into their bees– except we don’t just pollinate, we propagate, nurture, and protect.
When it comes to cut flowers, we are generally not interested in anything practical– not nourishment, or investment return, or anything other than the way looking at it makes us feel. There is something deeply humanizing about being slaves to beauty for beauty’s own sake.
And the drawbacks– chemicals and bad working conditions. Those aren’t the flowers’ fault. Those are our misplaced and far too “practical” value systems at work– demanding the most from the plant, and the people, and the environment, without wanting to give much of anything in return. But we’re learning, we can vote with our wallets and choose ethical growers.
A flower’s beauty is more than petal deep. It represents that final blaze and thrill of vitality before the sleep of seedpod and the death that brings about new life. When I die, that’s the image I want coming back to my children, my friends, and family– that existence is a brilliant joy, and its seeming transience is only because our essence is so deeply rooted that we can forget to see it.
So, hell yeah, when I die, send all the flowers you want– and while you’re at it, maybe pick up some for yourself tomorrow :).
Love you all.
I guess this is my Solstice post :).