“The flower is the poetry of reproduction. It is an example of the eternal seductiveness of life.” –Jean Giraudoux
One of my favorite things to see is a small plant that I pass on my way to work. I have no idea what it is, but it grows right out of the cement where a traffic sign is planted. It starts small and gradually grows taller than the sign. It is so striking, the bright green against the gray of the sidewalk and metal sign post. It’s a tired symbol, the life sprouting from the dead concrete, but it’s no less moving. Despite the strength and sheer volume of the pavement, this small plant emerges. Life finds a way to go on, no matter how hard its circumstances are.
I also walked through the mall today. There is a wall that usually is covered in beautiful vines. The powers that be cut down the plants to small stumps, leaving a long stretch of empty wall. The plants grow beautiful pink flowers and delicate leaves. I love walking past the bushes, despite my usual hurry, and missed them when they were cut down. However today, as I walked past, I happened to look down at the little stumps. The wall still stands empty, but down by the ground, less than a foot tall, stand new green vines and a handful of flowers.
I don’t know what it is about flowers that makes people so happy. Sure, there are the colors and and the genius of their form and symmetry. But I can’t explain why we bring them inside and admire them, cultivate them. There are only a few whose scents I really enjoy. Real flowers, that withstand the trials of the average garden or field, not those grown to be identical in greenhouses, typically are full of insects and holes. Nibbles are taken out of leaves and stems don’t stand straight. And then flowers die. They sag and wilt and shed their leaves and petals. Flowers don’t last. I think that is also part of their allure. They are temproal, fleeting. The only way to enjoy a flower is to enjoy it in the present. You can’t put off flowers until the budget is balanced or school is done or whatever excuse fits your purpose. The flower won’t wait around for you.
However, the brevity of flowers isn’t the only thing that is refreshing. In fact, it’s the cause of something I think we also love about them: flowers come back. Their buds bloom and drop and their leaves wither and die, but in time, they bloom again. They grow up each spring and thrive again after pruning. In fact, they require the cutting and dying and hibernation to bloom and flourish. I find it comforting that in the short weeks since my vines were cut down new ones have taken hold. Sure, we share this world with other humans and animals, but there is something awe-filled about plants. Their life and resillence are so simple– they don’t need jobs and families and skills to hunt or farm or find shelter. They simply are. They live and grow and die and grow again. They do not worry or stress or fear or envy. They are life at its simplest and, in some ways, most beautiful. They are humbling.
“Flowers seem intended for the solace of ordinary humanity.” –John Ruskin