Gathering Dead Flowers

I’ve always had a tremendous difficulty when picking flowers.

It’s hard to pick a nice flower, for you have to keep a sharp eye out for them. The perfect flower often lays hidden between the other more average blooms in a flower bush. There are certain things you must look for when picking the perfect flower; you don’t want to settle for a wilted or discoloured flower, the kind where the colour is dull or is drained completely by brown stains on the petals. You may think you are capable of fixing these flowers by bringing them home and placing them in your nicest vase, but the reality is even then they will continue to be damaged. You should try to avoid the ones which never will bloom – why have a flower if it is to forever remain a bud? You can dream of the potential of this flower and create fantasies where the bud finally blooms into the most wonderful flower, but it’s not a flower now and will never be. It’s simply a bud. The worst kind of flowers have thorns. Those flowers make you bleed. How can something so deceptively beautiful elicit the most painful of human responses? Most of the time, you never know a flower has thorns until it’s too late, and you’ve already made the decision to pick it from the bush. The pain, regardless of whether the cut merely grazes the top layer of skin or penetrates deep into your flesh, is all the same.

I like to spend my time sitting in flower fields. How wonderful it is to see flowers out in their most natural form.

My mother used to tell me that there was a secret to making cut flowers last longer in a jar. Cut flowers love sugar. I would watch her sprinkle sugar into jars and vases for the flowers, and they would sit contently despite the fact they had been cut from their life source and were facing an impending demise. I did what I was told, I fed my flowers sweet things in the hopes it would make them last. I fed them syrupy words, sugary kisses, and made myself into a sweeter version of myself.

Over the span of several months in my late teenage years, I thought I had picked the perfect flower. The flower was sturdy, and a delicate sun-kissed olive colour that glowed like ancient gold. The petals curled at the ends and I spent many afternoons watching as the sea breeze blew through the petals, ruffling them gently before returning them to their place. I realised I wanted to pick the flower one random weekday, as the tinted glass of the greenhouse let in the morning sun. The flower forced intrigue; the first time I saw it I forgot how to talk. I had thought it previously impossible to be caught speechless by a simple flower. But despite feeding it all the sweet things I could think of, nurturing this flower like it was the only important thing in the world, and giving it my time and attention in return for something as mindless as a sideways glance, the flower died. I sat in my car and wept as if I had lost something permanent; but in a wicked way, a flower continues to be permanent even after it has died. Though the flower may be withered and brown, it remains in some form as compost or earthly nutrient only to grow brand new for someone else.

You can press the petals between heavy books and dry them to admire them for longer, but I’ve never perfected the art and it’s easier to throw them away.

And then, seemingly by chance, I stumbled upon another flower. This flower radiated copper hues and navy blues, with speckled petals that danced with the moon. I thought it was as though the flower was almost made just for me and maybe that’s why I let this flower reach out to me from the field. It smelt worn yet clean, for it has been growing for long before I was born. My friends forced smiles when I told them how this flower stood out among others in a field.

It wasn’t as painful realising the second time that this bloom, though handsome in a vase on my bedside table, too had died. But this one was harder to get rid of; see, the flower had dropped seeds into the earth of my life and taken root over and over again. I tried tugging the stalk and pulling at the roots, but it’s deep in the soil now. Every day I trip over the roots of this flower and have to catch myself before I fall further down a woman-made hole.

My mother never gave me a lesson on how to cope with the death of a flower. I spent too much of my time focusing on trying to keep them alive I allowed myself to forget that flowers will never survive if you sever the stalk from bush. I’ve spent my time simply gathering dead flowers.

Words by Maddi