Archives for posts with tag: flowers

So here’s a twist on Valentines I didn’t know about, even though it’s Victorian in nature. This article about Vinegar Valentines is fascinating. Somehow it manages to be eyebrow raising, disgusting, and a bit charming all at the same time. Far removed from our own commercially overridden holiday of love, the Victorian Era brought not only lovers to their special day, but haters as well. Googly eyed with adoration? Why, send your beloved a card with a pretty picture and prettier flowing, waxingly poetic verse. Squinty eyed with loathing? Just send along a card displaying an insulting poem, often accompanied by an ugly caricature! As time passed spinsters, suffragettes, and medical practitioners that quacked like a quack doctor could all look forward to missives of disgust. Also known as Penny Dreadfuls, these little insult bombs went off in many an unseemly heart, even as loving tributes were showered upon the beloved and beautiful. The contrast and idea of how unpleasant Vinegar Valentines must have been to their recipients make the sight of our modern store shelves, festooned with red heartshaped boxes full of everything from the disappointing questionably flavored chocolate like substance to the good stuff that’s gobbled at breakneck pace, a little more palatable. 

Happy Valentine’s Day!

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Funerals and flowers are on my mind again. My mom’s sister-in-law Aunt Maxine died last week. They were the last of their generation in the family, and she was my last person to call Aunt or Uncle.     

Seeing her surrounded by beautiful floral arrangements reminded me of a story my mom told me about a time long ago, when most people were so poor that the things we take for granted were beyond reach. Though people desperately wanted to honor their loved ones with flowers, sometimes it was simply impossible. Or so it seemed.
My mom was a little girl, going about her day, most likely following her mother around the house as she did her daily chores, helping when she could. When a knock came at the door, my grandmother opened it to find two very sad black neighbor ladies.

After exchanging greetings the ladies explained that a little child in their family had died. They were distraught, because they couldn’t afford to buy flowers for the funeral and couldn’t bear to bury such a beloved family member without flowers at all. 

They had come to Miss Georgie, known for her yard full of beautiful flower beds, to ask for a few of her flowers. My grandmother was also known for her kindness and compassion, and with good reason. She said of course they could have flowers. Then she thought for a bit. She smiled and told them to leave for a while and then come back. She would have some flowers ready for them.
Most people would have gone out to select a bouquet for the child’s funeral. Others would have picked her most beautiful blooms and tied them with a saved scrap of ribbon. Miss Georgie was neither. Her category was extraordinary people.

She went into the veritable garden she lived in and picked the most beautiful of her roses and lillies. She gathered ferns and any other complimenting small flowers she thought would help make the collection as beautiful as possible. When she came inside, she did find ribbon, but she went far above and beyond what had been asked of her.
My mom watched, fascinated, as her mother collected cardboard, newspapers, and sewing supplies. She sat down to cut a wreath shape out of the cardboard, then again from layers of newspaper. Somehow, she knew how to fashion a funeral arrangement, by sewing the flowers and ferns to the newspaper sheets thickened by layering, then sewing that to the cardboard, complete with the requisite ribbon bow. My mom told me that by the time it was finished the handmade funeral wreath was as beautiful as anything made by professional florists. 

The grieving ladies came back expecting a handful of simple flowers they could lay on a little child’s grave. What they were presented with was a gorgeous handmade funeral wreath that looked as if it had been professionally made. They were thrilled and so very grateful. My grandmother had been very moved by their plight and was so happy to be able to make a terrible time just a little better. And that day, watching her work so lovingly to help a family in need, made my mom love her mother just a little bit more.

Last summer when I was ordering flowers for my mom’s casket, I got started talking to the florist about this story. He thought it was wonderful and told me that was actually the way they made funeral wreaths so long ago. I don’t know how my grandmother learned to do it, and so well. What I do know is that I’m very proud to be Miss Georgie’s granddaughter.

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Today was my mom’s funeral. I planned every detail meticulously, with great love. She was surrounded by people who knew her, admired her, and remembered her from some point along the great, long winding road of her remarkable life.

I was so pleased with the elegant, beautiful service. My only disappointment was that music wasn’t provided for graveside services. I chose a longtime family friend to speak, and as he began his beautiful remembrance of her, he asked us to all sing the first stanza of Amazing Grace. He didn’t tell me that in advance and, as I sat there beside her for the final time, I was so grateful that he had thought of it. She loved music and some of her aides at the nursing home would sing hymns with her, bringing her joy as her life wound to its close. It was such a joy to me that her final song was sung to her by an impromptu choir composed of the voices of people she loved. And what a rare occurrence, privilege, and honor that I got to sing my mother to sleep, as she had done for me so lovingly as a child.

I would have loved to speak, but I knew I wouldn’t be able to be understood through my weeping. If I could have, I would have read one of my favorite poems. Funeral Blues, by W. H. Auden is not about a daughter and her mother, but it captures the beauty-lined pain of saying goodbye to someone beloved for the last time. Since I couldn’t read it for her, tonight I’ve found this wonderful reading, by actor Tom Hiddleston.

Rest in peace, dearest one.

I’ve uploaded a few images on Fine Art America. You can check them out here . More to come.

It’s easy to overlook what’s right underfoot, until all the beautiful tiny wildflowers start to carpet a spring yard. Here’s what I’ve been  noticing.

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I just love these. They look a bit like miniature pansies.

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This bright, pretty yellow one is great inspiration, since it appears to have managed to push its way up to the light right through the asphalt of the driveway and thrive.

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Here we have my favorite, of course. I don’t see this kind every year, but its almost neon purple always makes me smile when it does pop up.

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At first glance this little beauty is pure white. A really closer look reveals delicate purple striping.

The grass has already been mowed once this year. Before that there was a microscopic jungle of these lovely “weeds”, and more. These are the determined ones that won’t let a minor annoyance like a lawn mower keep them at bay for long.

Beauty can be found in the most unexpected places.
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Our local McDonald’s goes out of its way to landscape with jewel like pansies.
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It’s really nice to feel as if you’re in a patch of nature, as you wait in the drive thru line.
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So many colors. So much visual pleasure. An unexpected delight in the middle of a busy day.

A pop of color to brighten the drab days of winter.
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I believe this is a double Rose of Sharon.
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A cousin in the hibiscus family.
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How different it looks in different light, from varying distances.
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Soon to awaken again, when spring begins to bloom.