in memoriam

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.

fool, me.

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….