While at Trader Joe’s last week, I stopped to admire the display of flowers that were stationed outside the door, and I was successfully won over by the daffodils. I peered into the collection and pulled out a few pots, assessing their size and proportion of blossoms-to-buds, when a fellow shopper passed by.
“Make yourself happy,” she said to me as she entered the store.
She nailed it.
That’s exactly why I was buying the flowers.
Imparting happiness, injecting our world with buoyancy — that’s what flowers are for.
Flowers are something like smiles. They are fleeting, but they brighten the world and lighten the spirit. They are gracious and elegant, yet attainable and commonplace. They smack of indulgence, yet they are natural and gluten-free.
During springtime in Atlanta, we are surrounded by floral smiles. Our fluffy cherry trees, our feathery dogwoods, our brilliant azaleas are smiling at us from all sides, causing us to smile in return.
They cause us to smile and sneeze and itch and dab our watery eyes. Don’t think I would fail to mention that.
But back to the flowers.
They also remind me of that famous line by John Keats (I looked it up), “A thing of beauty is a joy for ever: its loveliness increases; it will never pass into nothingness…”
Well, you and I know that unless it’s laminated or made of some form of stone, a thing doesn’t physically last forever. Flowers certainly don’t. I love irises. I love their double triumvirate of petals — one set arching skyward and one bowing gracefully toward the earth — but when cut, they are the mayfly of flowers, in that they die in about a day.
Still, I love them. I love both the sight of them and the memory of them.
Not meaning to launch into a dissertation on Keats, but rather to confine this poetic moment to a single paragraph more, I will admit that Keats was right there with me. He was not intending to laminate beautiful things; rather, he was rhapsodizing about nature as well as the pleasant remembrance of things that naturally die, “but still will keep a bower quiet for us, and a sleep full of sweet dreams, and health, and quiet breathing.”
Obviously, though, Keats didn’t live in Atlanta, where all these things of beauty spew storms of ghastly yellow pollen that keep us sniffling and wheezing. There is no “quiet breathing” during spring in Atlanta, while we are gazing at our things of beauty. And that reminds me of another beauty-themed idiom, which is that beauty comes at a price.
Thus, in my column for today, we have Keats on beauty, and pollen on flowers, and smiles on faces, and springtime in Atlanta. And I am going to attempt to tie all of these themes into a neat little bow and close by coining a phrase of my own: “A smile carries no pollen.”
So this spring, plant flowers if it makes you happy.