Monday, June 13, 2011

The Case for Flowers -- Provenance Not Required

There's been so much brokenness around my city for the past few weeks, that it's hard to sort it all out.  And I don't even mean for the people who actually have to sort through their scattered belongings, but just for the unharmed city-dwellers who pass by the rubble every day. 

For us, it's hard to remember what Joplin used to be.  Stretches of road are completely unrecognizable, and blend in perfectly with the destruction on all sides.  I keep passing by a portion of crumbled building and realizing Oh...that WAS the street of houses that I always thought were so charming.  But just as quickly, the memory fades.

And just as tragically, in the scheme of beauty and comfort, all the trees are gone.  Hundred year old, towering oaks and sycamores in a grand, old park.  Weeping willows that lined the edge of a sweeping field.  Anything green and growing is lost, and what's left are the sharp points of bare, dead limbs.  The trees make me sadder than I though possible.  (It's been heartening to hear of others sharing my feelings; some friends are already planning a tree-replacing fund to start re-populating the stripped part of the city once it's cleaned up.)

But it makes me feel frivolous to mourn for a tree -- or even 6 square miles of trees -- when other losses are so much more pressing and tragic.  I can only guess at the thousands of unnamed, unrecorded losses.

What I can't know, for example, is the fate of the elderly lady (for I assume her identity must have been such, although I've never met or seen her in person) who covered all sides of her corner house with plumes and bunches of brightly colored plastic flowers.  Year-round, whenever I drove by that house on my side-winding shortcuts, I saw them.  Each bunch was identical: red, pink, blue, yellow, orange, purple -- all different colors arranged precisely on their green wire stems, plunged firmly and proudly into the dirt of her flower beds.  They filled the circle of bricks under her mailbox.  They crowded her window boxes. 

I had thought it was sad. 

From the outside, it seemed like it must have been a last resort; she could no longer plant seeds and bulbs, tending to weeds and sprawl with care, so she planted worry-free impostors instead.  And running through the possible scenarios in my head (it's worrisome how much time I spent considering her lawn-care choices), I admitted that it might have been less sad, and more eccentric.  In fact, I hoped so.  I hoped she was just popping a sprightly middle-finger to the world that said only delicate and fragile, honest-to-goodness flowers could fill a garden.  Realistically, spiking all of those plastic flowers into the ground probably took a lot of time and effort; I can only imagine the dollars spent on that volume of craft-store inventory.

Now, her house and all of her plastic flowers are gone.  Is she okay?  Did she survive?  If so, she certainly -- among acres of real-flower aficionados -- seems to hold the potential to make the best of a horrible reality.  She already knew what we are all just learning.

That you take beauty wherever you can get it, and you don't question it.  If it's there, soak it up.  Giggle at the confused faces of your neighbors, but bask in its prettiness without shame.  Make your world enjoyable with whatever's available to you.

Because you just never know.


  1. My mother in law's childhood home was devastated by a hurricane a few years back. The sickening part for her (still!) is that the sea water killed nearly all the oaks.

    In the pictures I've seen of Joplin, the torn trees are painful to see.
    Trees matter.

    Any way to create beauty is a grand one. My grandma, green thumbed though she was, resorted to a 'perpetually' blooming plastic plant for her apartment as her eyesight faded. The nice thing about a flower is it grows quickly.

  2. Oh! I've always felt so sorry for older people who deck their lawns out with fake flowers. It always seemed so sad to me. I think I love your new perspective on it!

  3. What a wonderful although sad post. I have certainly learnt in recent years to appreciate the beauty of nature so much more.

  4. I LOVE this!

    My BPMoment this week is similar :-)


Hmm...And how did that make you FEEL?