Friday, June 15, 2007


Then God said, “Let the earth put forth vegetation: plants yielding seed, and fruit trees of every kind on earth that bear fruit with the seed in it.” And it was so. The earth brought forth vegetation: plants yielding seed of every kind, and trees of every kind bearing fruit with the seed in it. And God saw that it was good. And there was evening and there was morning, the third day. Genesis 1:11-13

Come into the garden: its magical trees
dapple the sun as they sway with each lazy breeze;
they'll set your mind at ease.

Pretend you're a child with nothing to hide;
they we'll join hands, and let the universe swing wide
we'll lay our fears aside

Hold me: here we can still be born again.
Trust me: believe we can still be born again.
We've been sleeping all our lives;
at last we can open our eyes.

Our gates are unguarded; I've stolen the key
to where everything holy inside us is free to run free
to smell and taste and touch and see

Hold me: here we can still be born again.
Trust me: believe we can still be born again.
We've been sleeping all our lives;
at last we can open our eyes.

~ Carly Simon

I have been tagged by Nina with her brand-newly created flower meme. Thanks Nina! I'm honored...

It's simple: name up to five favorite flowers, with explanations/ stories attached.


I first encountered freesias in Kensington Street, London, when I was there on holiday/ adventure with one of my closest high school friends, another C. C. and I were close all throughout school, and until we set off for different universities in the same city. I suspected then something I never named: that C. was a lesbian. (It's amazing how, once you say something out loud, it becomes a kind of endlessly reflecting/ refracting mirror, through which you begin to see many life-events.) Is that why we "lost touch"... though we lived in the same city for at least 5-6 years, and professed to be "close" friends? I don't know.

C. and I were both 17 or 18, and had an unusual amount of freedom, I suppose, for girls of that age, in that situation. This was no school trip. Our parents had sent us with a local tour group, having been introduced beforehand to a small group of middle-aged women who were supposed to look after us on the trip. Instead, after not allowing us to sit next to one another on the flight over, they had essentially abandoned us to our itineraries and our own devices. So we saw London ourselves, in our spanking new trench coats and walking shoes.

Near the end of the week things were strained between us. I don't know why. I remember thinking there was something we should talk about. The talk never happened. On our last full day in London I found freesias, being sold by a street vendor. I bought a fist full of them on an impulse, and gave them to C. I had never encountered them before, but I was entranced by their sweet/peppery scent. We inhaled them like a prescribed medicine, earnestly. Things were better. I carried them in my wedding bouquet.


I live in a hundred-plus year-old-house, in a suburb-like neighborhood in a small city. You know how, sometimes, you know one side of your house better than the others? There is one entrance you prefer, and it mediates your experience of the house? Well, for the first nine months or so in my house (this is years ago), I only really payed attention to the door by the driveway, which lets us into the kitchen. We went through a fall and winter, and the early bit of spring. One day in late spring I was outside with my daughter-- then about two years old. We found our way around the block, and came upon my house from an unaccustomed approach. There, on the unfamiliar border of the "other side" of the house, was an enormous thatch of peonies, in full bloom. Pink, tender, full of that scent which I believe is more beautiful than that of a rose. My daughter, wearing a little purple sundress, with her brownish-blonde curls pulled up in a ponytail, began to twirl and dance in front of the peonies. It is my earliest truly happy memory of the house.


I am beginning to see (or smell) a theme... all my favorite flowers thus far have strong scents... I will forever associate gardenias with my high school guidance counselor, Mr. S., who presented me with one on a school trip to Greece. I had a mad crush on him. After he gave me the gardenia I dreamed we made love, but with a layer of Saran Wrap between us. Right after my husband and I separated I found a gardenia scented lotion I began wearing... a kind of balm for my soul in those fragmented days, something to speak to me of loveliness and desire when I could hardly imagine their return. Now when I wear it, I am reminded of my first experiences with Beloved.


Now onto an unscented and brand new favorite, a flower whose name I didn't even know until I picked up a flat of it at a nursery a month ago: lobelia. I am in love with the way the lobelia is spreading out in my garden, the way it almost thrives on neglect, with its periwinkle color, its tiny delicate/ hardy blossoms, with its daily reminder to me that I have tried to create some beauty around me. It is utilitarian and dependable and its thoughtless loveliness catches me by surprise every time I step out the door of my house.


My association of hyacinths is strongly-- almost completely-- wrapped up in memories of my mother. Every year, near the end of Lent, she would bring hyacinth plants into the house. She, who disdained cut flowers (they were a lazy and thoughtless gift, she opined-- I have always adored receiving them, myself), was mad for just about all bulbs-- tulips, paperwhites, lilies. But she loved hyacinths best of all, with their almost maddening perfume (which, to this day, smells to me like the taste of chocolate, so closely do I associate that scent with Easter and those baskets!). My mother taught me a poem about hyacinths:

If thou of fortune be bereft,
and in thy store there be but left
two loaves, sell one, and with the dole,
buy hyacinths to feed thy soul.

Every year, after I had moved out and was a "grown-up," I sent my mother a pot of hyacinths, quoting back to her the last line: "Hyacinths to feed thy soul."


more cows than people said...

This is shimmeringly beautiful. Thank you.

Edward said...

Stunning. Thank you from another of Nina's flower children.

Anonymous said...

I feel like I've walked through a garden. And I can smell the flowers. What a lovely post. Thank you.

Nina said...

A bouquet of scent and reminiscence for your readers! thank you

Kate said...

Dandelions! Bright, cheery, ubiquitous, tough as roaches. Most people hate em, I love em. Also, good in salads.

Irises, which came with the garden plots we got this year at the community garden. Big bright exuberant blooms that smell delightful and last but a day or two.

Roses. Cliche perhaps, but old roses, heirloom roses, roses that grow in big sprawling untamed bushes and bloom without restraint and defy the pruning hook. And the smell, o the smell...

I forget what they're called, but the hanging pink-purple ones. *goes to look* Fuschias. Just because O my god, the colours.

Also, tomato flowers. Not cos they're pretty. Not cos they smell nice. Just cos later? There are tomatoes.

Cecilia said...

Kate!!! lol... this was excellent. The tomatoes! So perfect.


C. (working late on a sermon)