so I opined in the course of cutting the ribbon for a floral boutique, an engagement that renewed my appreciation for botanical beauties. Indeed it seemed to me that each bouquet represented a miniature floral universe, an exuberance of gorgeous form and heady perfume. My larger thought was that appreciating the exquisite collective ought not to make one overlook the individual lovelies in each assortment- an observation with a broader bearing on human life and group dynamics.
When I returned from this engagement, the spouse was predictably dubious about what I could have possibly spoken, beyond a few lines urging artistry and ensuring freshness. Actually, I surprised myself with a range of observations on the floral significance in our lives.
To begin with, I found myself glancing at the motifs on many of the invitees’ outfits, including my own, to find a predictable dominance of the floral. I let my memory float to the motifs of bed and bath linen, upholstery and wallpaper, to know that as a species we like to carry the spirit of a garden into the literal fabric of our lives. A glance at the patterns in our jewellery, woodwork, the sculptured ornamentation of our monuments or anything at all with a design element would indicate the impress of floral inspirations. Not surprisingly artists have long been fascinated with flowers. Two of the world’s highest priced paintings have been Van Gogh’s “Irises” and “Sunflowers” which indicate the viewers’ premium on capturing the ephemeral.
Across languages, girl children are named after flowers in the hope that they will embody like qualities of beauty and charm.The pages of poetry ring in praise of flowers, as often synonymous with love and romance. There would be hardly a schoolchild educated in English without a nodding acquaintance with Wordsworth’s “Daffodils”; each language must have its own ecstatic paeans to the floral. My own favourites are the complex poems of Emily Dickinson with allusions to flowers and gardens, such as “ I taste a liquor never brewed.” In my own poetry, I use flowers to derive larger lessons for life. In a poem on the lotus, for example, I admire its ability to rise in beauty above the murky waters of stagnant ponds as a message to overcome limiting circumstances for better things. The title of my novel “ Blossom Showers” draws from the exquisite flowering of the coffee blossom to embellish the storyline and generalize some insights on existence. Songs and music across traditions capture the spirit of flowers in associations of event and sentiment too numerous to mention.
History is full of interesting associations with flowers. The emblems of the Houses of Lancaster and York, red and white roses respectively, defined the War of the Roses for the English throne, till the Tudor Rose merged them in an act of victory and marital alliance. Napoleon went by the nickname of Corporal Violet, from his fondness for the flower; this would serve as a unifying symbol for his supporters. Co-incidentally, when he returned to France from exile at Elba, the violets were in full bloom. Marie Duplessis was a beautiful 19th century French courtesan, loved by the rich and famous men of her time, with a reported affinity for camellias. On her untimely death at 23, an ardent lover, the writer Alexandre Dumas would resurrect her persona as Marguerite Gautier when he wrote the famous “ Lady of the Camellias.” In my own life, my most vivid memory of a dear and deceased friend was the beautiful orchids she would often send me.
Fresh flowers enjoy an importance in feng shui as a focus for good luck or “chi” as it is called. Flowers are high on the charts of those who believe that to surround oneself with beauty is to attract positive energies to power general endeavours.
“Flowers indeed are nature’s gift Our moods and feelings to uplift
And subtle messages convey To enhance our very special days…”
It’s true that lovely floral settings accentuate our happy times. The gloom of our saddest moments is perhaps relieved by their irrepressible essence, a reminder that life is short and beautiful, and be lived to the fullest by those around.
The eco-puritan in me wonders if lands devoted to cultivating flowers wouldn’t be better utilized for grain. I myself don’t have the facts and figures for such a viewpoint, but my guess is that as long as surplus grains rot in go-downs, utility is not sacrificed for beauty, which in itself is a valid enough aspiration for maintaining life’s balance. Flowers after all do not go beyond nature; they cannot ordinarily exceed the potential of a receptive terrain or climate.
As I wish my friend’s floral boutique a heady waft of fragrance into others’ lives, I discerned that these lines shared on the occasion might enjoy a resonance with all those who value beauty in their lives:
“ They enchant and they entrance,Flowers make our senses dance;
Dull indeed our lives would be Devoid of floral gaiety. “