I was all set to make this column a rant about my love/hate relationship with social media and how having access to such tools makes otherwise intelligent adults behave the most annoying people you knew in middle school, but such a rant would really be rather pointless. I mean, we all know that “friend” is not a verb, and our followers are not actually our minions, right? Right???
In any case, after a string of grey murky days with thick air that feels like you actually could slice it like so much butter, I was at the grocery store shopping for a dinner party when I was struck by the bunches of tulips in non-traditional (as in, not that reddish-pinkish classic “Dutch Tulip” shade which is so familiar that OPI even turned it into a nail polish color a decade or so ago) hues. They were on sale, and last week’s flowers were on their last legs – or stems – so two bunches leaped eagerly into my shopping cart and came home with me.
This is a fairly frequent occurrence for me. I come from a long line of amateur gardeners. My grandfather turned his suburban New Jersey back yard into a small-scale farm when I was little and he was newly retired. My mother always had container gardens when she didn’t have a yard to plant things in, and when she did we were always surrounded by blooms in a riot of colors and scents (my favorite were the chocolate cosmos that actually smell like Hershey’s Kisses). One of my aunts is not only a master gardener, but wrote a book about immigrant/ethnic gardening traditions (The Earth Knows my Name), and another aunt has bountiful blooms in her front yard.
I used to have a garden of my own, as well, before I moved to Texas. I had a window box in our last California house, and in the condo we lived in before that, I once (mostly accidentally) planted enough nasturtiums to take over the entire yard. In fact, had we not eventually plowed them under, I’m pretty sure they would have taken over San Jose, and then all of California, and possibly the entire Pacific coast of the United States. Here in the DFW metroplex, however, I don’t have the right soil for the gardening I like, and my back yard is dominated by a swimming pool. I also don’t have a container garden. I attempted one, once, but then I went away for a writers’ conference in the heat of summer and my husband neglected to water anything, and shortly after that we got Max, a pointer-mix who likes to uproot anything I plant, and/or eat the planters.
Even so, I can’t live without something green and growing (or…recently growing) in my life, so every week when I go to the grocery store, I buy a bunch or two of flowers. I even trained my husband to do this for me, whenever HE goes shopping, giving him the rule, “If you really don’t know what to do, choose something seasonal, whimsical, or purple,” because those are my favorite sorts of flowers.
Sometimes, the “seasonal and whimsical” bit rules the day, like when we bring home those Japanese lantern flowers that look like tiny translucent pumpkins, or the branches that have actual miniature pumpkins dangling from them. Sometimes I buy bunches of carnations (3 for $12) and put vases in every room of the house. I usually prefer to get bunches of a couple of different types of flowers and arrange them myself, rather than buying the mixed bouquets, but when my grandmother was alive, we would stop in at the Safeway near her care home and pick up the bouquet of the week to bring to her.
I’ll confess that more than once I’ve spent my last ten dollars on grocery store flowers, but I’ve never regretted doing so. Having colorful blossoms in the house makes me feel brighter and lighter and puts a smile on my face.
John Ruskin said, “Flowers seem intended for the solace of ordinary humanity.”
I quite agree.