“since the thing perhaps is to eat flowers and not to be afraid”

Woman with Flower Head by Salvador Dali (1937)

Woman with Flower Head by Salvador Dali (1937)

2 November 2013
11:58 PM


We were in a dressing room this afternoon, my sisters and I. All of us crammed inside a small box. It can make someone feel claustrophobic, and by someone, I meant me. Which is why I was staring at the mirror the whole time (a thing I never do), to trick myself into the illusion that the space is bigger. I tried on a blue blouse with flowers on it. Two doors down, someone was trying to calm a baby. To my right someone was asking her friend loudly if she should get a belt to match her dress. My sister tried to give her input, raising her voice to be heard above the din, and the four of us dissolved into giggles, burying our faces in clothes.

I studied in a private Catholic school for girls for eleven years. One of the things we learned how to decipher was the language of roses. What does white mean? What does yellow mean? Red? And if you got pink, what then? And what about those with special-coloured tips? What does one rose mean? Three must surely mean I love you, but what about two? Four and a box of chocolates? Five and a teddy bear? And what of thorns?

Things that germinate:

  • Seeds
  • Good ideas
  • Bad ideas
  • Kindness
  • Economic problems
  • Hereditary superstition (per Edgar Allan Poe)
  • My insecurities
  • Grudges

Some days I don’t even know what flowers I want. I like carnations, but only if they’re not pink. Birds of Paradise are weird. So are anthuriums. The ranunculus, meanwhile, intrigues me. I like tulips but they’re bloody expensive here. A book costs less. I have lost my appreciation for chrysanthemums, daisies, and asters. Someday I would like to look at them again like I’ve never seen them before in my life. I once wanted an apple tree because of its blossoms. I like jasmine. It’s our national flower. We call it sampaguita. They’re usually strung on a garland and sold on the streets. People buy them to hang on the rear-view mirror in the car, or on the necks of saints. Pansies remind me of butterflies. Poinsettias are everywhere now, because of Christmas. Poppies are lovely. I remember liking dama de noche from childhood, but they only bloom at night, I think.

I grew up with a wall of bougainvilleas and pots of orchids in the garden. Our bougainvilleas are a deep pink, but that’s okay because they look like leaves. Sometimes they are also purple, or fuchsia. (I once knew a girl whose second name was Fuchsia.) Orchids are okay but I dislike them when I was a kid because of the ants, and also because they don’t need watering cans–just a spritz of water. I don’t like uppity flowers, I’m sorry. “They just need to be moist, not wet.” Ugh.

Today, the only thing blooming in the garden is a single pot of roses that our housekeeper stubbornly tends to. My grandmother who lives across the street likes to grow santan. Still grows them. We used to make them into necklaces.

Things that grow:

  • Seedlings
  • Storm clouds
  • Businesses
  • Love
  • Hate
  • My knowledge of the world, and life
  • My relationships

One afternoon, someone gave me a dozen yellow roses. I remembered feeling beautiful. When my father picked me up, he took one look at me and lectured all the way home. He might have shouted. I might have cried. I think he was trying to be protective. But it was my birthday. I had just turned eighteen.

Sometimes I can’t distinguish Monet from Manet, but I know they both painted flowers. Georgia O’Keeffe painted flowers, too, and people said they were vaginas. I think it’s more than that, but once you’ve seen it, it’s difficult to unsee it. Van Gogh cut off his ear, and all they talk about now are his sunflowers and the starry night. I think of him and his letters to his brother, and I remember almond branches.

Things that mature:

  • Plants
  • Teenagers
  • Wine
  • Investment portfolios
  • Leather
  • Vocabulary
  • Humour
  • Cheese
  • My taste in men
  • My sense of self

I want to go to Japan and just stand under the cherry blossoms. To Provence and be in the middle of a field of lavender. To Tuscany, for the sunflowers.

My earliest memory of a flower is the hibiscus. We call it gumamela. My sister and I would usually pick a few and pound the petals with stones. I think we were trying to make bubbles. I can’t remember if we were successful, but we did it often enough.

Things that wilt:

  • Petals
  • Desires
  • Team spirit
  • Spinach
  • My brain
  • My resolve

Have you ever eaten a flower?

These days I think of hydrangeas mostly, and I dream of a house, my house, in the future, and thick bushes of it everywhere. White and blue, never pink. I imagine burying my face in them. Perhaps I also want peonies and lilacs. Yes, a lilac tree would be nice. Perhaps a pond, too, and lotuses.

Things that die:

  • The earth
  • Bacteria
  • Careers
  • Culture
  • Friendships
  • Technology
  • Cities
  • Patience
  • People I love

Here is a poem:

The Flower
Robert Creeley

I think I grow tensions
like flowers
in a wood where
nobody goes.

Each wound is perfect,
encloses itself in a tiny
imperceptible blossom,
making pain.

Pain is a flower like that one,
like this one,
like that one,
like this one.

Here is another one:

“What a strange thing!
to be alive
beneath cherry blossoms.”

― Kobayashi Issa

I ended up buying the shirt with the ferns on it.


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