be still, your pounding hearts. we gather today to—wait, to consider the death that abounds in vases all over my house. the bouquet that’s gone bust. the flowers duly expired. the blooms well past their best-if-used-by prime.
fitting we should consider the limp, the faded, the still–to my eye—beautiful here in the desperate days of end-stage winter. where if things don’t lighten up, warm up, spring forth, or d.) any of the above, we shall make like the flowers and go limp, fade, flop over, or d.) skip the above bit about beauty beheld.
as we limp, no we stagger, toward spring, where week-ahead forecasts for 50s and 60s (remember, chair headquarters is here in chicago, along the shivering shores of lake michigan) tempt us to roll up the scarves, shove away mittens, we are exhaling the last final puffs of spent, dry, stale air from the pits of our lungs. we are clinging to walls, waiting for updrafts from parts of the world where, by now, it is blooming, it’s warm.
we have, if you’re like me, tossed away sum after sum in the grocery store line, week after week plucking those plastic-sheathed posies, thinking a rose in a see-through sleeve is a beautiful thing, is the only thing really that might keep your spring hopes alive.
i’ve done tulips by the near truckload. opted for a few precious clumps of wordsworth’s golden host, the daff-o-dill. clutched white roses at christmas. antique porcelain, with a mere wisp of mauve, up above. the hydrangea beside it spoke to me, too; i couldn’t leave the grocery without it.
between my cat who decapitates tulips like my little one sneaks handfuls of gumdrops, and the rather short-lived life of a stem out of soil, i watch clump after clump go the way of all flesh: peaked to shriveled to brown-tipped to dried. dehydrated right there on the stem, in the vase, on my counter, long past the point you might consider polite. (if flowers have pride mine might be ashamed.)
quite aware of the fact that i’ve shot my winter’s allowance for flowers, i am now milking my petals for all that they’re worth. thus, the tea rose up above, the hydrangea beside it, they’ve been in serious need of resuscitation—or recycling bin—for the better part of a week.
but i’m not budging. i have, not yet anyway, no intention of tossing. long partial to the weak and infirm, i have every intention of milking every last drop of my fading bouquets.
besides, i rather like the more challenging task of searching for beauty where others see none. in a world that rewards in-your-face, pop-up aesthetics, anna nicole’s bosom versus katie hepburn’s upsweep, i’ll take the upsweep. any day.
and, yes, looking in the mirror is a daily reminder that to fade, honestly, naturally, without shame, is an ennobling possibility.
so i will keep my bouquets parched as they are, gasping for that last breath of life. i will watch the sunset of their petals, as they fade into the horizon. i will honor them, keep them, well after death us do part.
in the share-a-quirky-secret society, anyone else hold onto floral abundance ’til it’s turned into floral decay? beyond the dead buds, anyone else see the beauty in things old and faded and dry? wabi sabi does….
I used to keep them, dead bouquets, not out of honor but on account of laziness, a corner-of-the-eye acknowledgment that, oh, there’s a dead bouquet, maybe I’ll get to it…after the ironing perhaps…? Anyway that was before. Now I keep them to resuscitate into homemade paper. Old withered petals do beautiful things in a bin of paper pulp, drawn up to dry on a screen. Rose petals–dark ones–especially surprise: they bleed a little, spreading their gorgeous hues out beyond the bounds of their original shape, leaving a permanent water-colory mark. Talk about extending the beauty. They have extra to give out even after their utter end.
On my vanity sits a pretty antique candy jar, on a pedestal, a tall column filled with pink roses and babys breath dried and perfumed. These roses are those given to me by my dear husband one day for no particular occassion. I love looking at them.MH from Jersey
oh my goodness, dear jcv, you amaze me. i forgot to mention that i too love to keep til beyond the beyond and then sprinkle atop bowls filled with old potpourri. is there anything so lovely as a delphinium when it’s done, but still rich cobalt blue? i also hang upside down, with abandon, upended soldiers, their heads dangling forever. stems all bunched together. a bouquet to never forget. (like mh, i could tell you where each one came from…) on little hooks, up where the screens meet the ceiling in my old screen porch, and in a teeny bathroom with shower i’ve never used. but making paper??????? oh my goodness, i love that. flowers and words all mixed into one. can we have a paper class, PLEASE?!?!?! i love the notion of the natural botanic dye oozing into the pulp all around…on a somber note, my beautiful friend crd in l.a. sent word and a link that just made me stop and think. in much of the world where flowers are groomed for market, it’s women, poor uneducated women, standing amid toxin-sprayed fields. buy organic, is the message. and not just your milk. here’s the link http://www.alternet.org/story/47847. sigh….once it warms up around here we can grow in our gardens and then pluck guilt-free….and then we can all pull up our chairs and follow along as sweet jcv teaches us the fine art of petal paper……
I must comment again and endorse the desire and hope that jcv will share paper-making with us. I love the idea also and have no idea how to proceed. I’ll be looking for lessons in ‘petals to paper’….MH
MH, it’s probably too far for you to come to our paper making class from NJ, but let me recommend Arnold Grummer. He’s this awesome older gentleman who is the last, and probably also the first word in making paper. His website will set you up with everything you need. Buy a starter kit from him, watch his video, and away you go. Those of you within range of Chicago, well, come on down to our basement studio on Wednesday nights. Bring junk paper and old dead flower heads, weeds, bark, most things work, and watch the magic.
Today’s topic hits a home run for me. Come to my house and you’ll find clusters of dried roses tied together with ribbon all over the place. I absolutely adore them and hang them upside down in the coldness of the garage just as they begin to droop in the vase. Once dried, they join their kin and keep company with varieties in various colors. And, yes, they call my name from the aisles of the floral department.Many moons ago, I taught first grade. For Mother’s Day one year with the help of a local craft store owner, our class made paper. It was messy, but what fun that was! Believe it or not, we used dryer lint (yes, dryer lint) mixed with other natural materials (including crushed flower petals) and made the most gorgeous paper cards for each mother. We then made our own ink out of crushed berries and used duck feathers as quills to write the greeting in each card. Dried petite rose buds (I told you I adore them) finished the face of the cards. I’ll never forget those children … so proud to give something they actually made, not just crafted, and the comments from the mothers who received those cards. Thank you for the sweet memories today’s topic brought back. Oh, and as a side note to jcv – I keep forgetting to file a follow-up report on the apricot walnut pancakes, remember? One word … YUMMMMMMMM :O)
Thank you JCV for the information about Mr. Grummer. I will look into his website. I am wishing Chicago was not too far. Your class sounds like fun.Enjoy the art of paper making!MH