Thursday, August 09, 2007

The Memories of Flowers

Flowers have flawless memories, soft voices and compassionate spirits.

I glance at the upright leaves of a Mother-in-Law’s Tongue and it remembers and whispers my mother’s name. A Peace Rose always speaks of my daughter and from a bryophyllum I hear my father’s voice. It’s true. A Mother-in-Law’s Tongue tried to speak to me a few months ago but I was deaf to its voice. Recently, however, three small Mothers-of-Thousands joined together and made me hear and understand. Let me explain.

Mothers-of-Thousands (bryophyllum). Notice the small plantlets on the ends of the leaves of the top plant. (Larger version)

At a master gardener class I broke four or five plantlets from the leaf of a mature plant and stuck them in the pocket of my jeans. When I arrived home I dropped three of them into the end of a long flowerbox with an Aloe and gave them a drink. The sisters looked so small, delicate and fragile but they took root. After a few weeks I moved them to individual peat pots and they began to grow and look healthy. One grew quickly and developed two tiny plantlets on each of two leaves. As I looked closely at the tiny miracles, I felt a sense of irrational fear blended with hope – fear that they would die and hope that at least one would mature and bear many small ones. Why was it important to me? Because I had a similar plant twenty-nine years ago that was a gift.

At that time I lived in a house with an enclosed back porch. I filled the window sills with about fifty plants – African Violet, Wandering Jew, Prayer Plant, Spider Plant and others. My father visited and brought a Mother-of-Thousands and some other plants that I’ve forgotten. For some reason -- perhaps it was something he said -- I identified the bryophyllum with him.

He’s been dead for over twenty years. About a year after his funeral, I visited my mother and noticed a small Mother-in-Law’s Tongue sitting near a window. As I looked at it and ran my finger along its leaves, she said that it had been part of an arrangement at his funeral. When the other flowers in the arrangement died, she moved it to another pot. For the next fifteen years, whenever I visited, I checked the plant and it became a lonely symbol of her solitude in a house that had once been home to a family of five. Often, as the years passed she would see me checking it and tell me again that it came from Dad’s funeral.

Julie inherited a Mother-in-Law’s Tongue when she moved into an office at work. She brought it home but wasn’t pleased with its aged look. Whenever she mentioned pitching it out, I heard its plea and came to its defense. Now I understand. The Mother-in-Law’s Tongue tried to tell me but it was the Mothers-of-Thousands who made me hear. Flowers, in their compassion, are keepers of treasured memories. We need them.

My daughter, Dawn, was in the hospital and a friend gave her a Peace Rose. We planted it in the yard and it learned her name. Now, after two decades, I see a Peace Rose and it tells me stories of her.

Years ago I used to go each fall with Cindy, a friend in Kentucky, to an Amish farm to dig a pickup bed full of Mums. I still have a memory of her and a young barefooted Amish girl in a long cotton dress who watched us with beautiful wide eyes. As we moved down the rows of hundreds upon hundreds of Mums, she would follow us at a safe distance. I tried to engage her in polite conversation but she never spoke except with her eyes. I can’t forget her or Cindy. The Mums won’t let me forget. They remind me each time I see them.

What flower speaks to me of Julie? None! I hope one never does. I’d rather have her than some beautiful flower singing a sad song of memories of her.

This past week I received two more houseplants, a Prayer Plant and a Crown-of-Thorns. They were gifts from a neighbor. Hopefully, by Thanksgiving our attached greenhouse will be finished and I’ll move these and other flowers into it. I plan on filling it and raising more flowers. If the Mother-of-Thousands mature, I think I’ll pot several plantlets and give them as gifts. It’s pleasant to think that after I’m gone someone will look at a flower and hear its soft voice reminding them of me. That would be a good memorial. Flowers never forget.


Blogger Whitesnake said...

I give out what we call "happy plants". You are not suppose to buy them for yourself but for someone else. If they grow well then you know the house is happy.

Strange what plants do to some people eh?

My fav would have to be what we call "Elephant Ears" I had one flower once, (apparently very rare) it has a baby power perfume about it........

8/09/2007 01:06:00 PM  
Blogger Larry Clayton said...

Hi, Paul. My wife, Ellie , is gungho on wind and solar energy, anything to minimize CO(2). Also flowers of course. Glad she is, but I can't tear myself away from Mr. Blake.

8/10/2007 08:43:00 AM  
Blogger Buffalo said...

You and Julie - that's a shinin' thing.

8/10/2007 01:29:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i have to say.... i thoroughly enjoyed your thoughts on flowers.. made me realize that flowers have special memories for me too.....

it was beautifully written .. and tugged memories out of the dark recesses of my muddled brain


8/14/2007 04:31:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i planted some wild flower seeds, this summer, that my sister sent to me. they are looking very beautiful and, yes, they remind me of my sister.

8/21/2007 11:56:00 PM  

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