The Pathos of Flowers
Updated: Apr 9, 2021
Poetry by Jessica Lee McMillan
In the mire of raincloud — this clouded over year — we missed the first blossoming of rhododendrons by the river.
On your first magical years, we met the river in frequent sabbaticals, taking in the garden scent with the invigorating tugboat-churned aroma of silt and mellow, green freshwater. You talked to the flowers, as you still do. You could barely pronounce the names, but you knew they each had special names. Special reverences.
New seasons whisper in delicate timing of blooms. Missing the first breath feels like forsaking a gift. Like arriving after all the guests have left. Garden variety fear of missing out. The pale pink rhododendrons that come first were already wilting, skins underfoot and slumping onto the jade, waxen leaves. When we took the salvaged handful home they melted in the water, translucently floating in a glass bowl on our kitchen counter.
There is something about a bruised pink petal that tells me everything I need to know about life.
Mono no aware/もののあはれ.
Like the sakura and the fallen samurai, our time is a springtime, a fragile beauty. But the sakura are still to come this year. The ume blossoms are the first to wake on the snowy air. Most people don’t care to learn the difference, but you already know that plum comes before cherry.
I still try to remain fluent in the language of flowers. I am not a fleeting petal of disconnection. I am of perennial sadness and awe.
The first missed blooms are my penance. Staying inside, plugged in to days of the week, I did not tend to my own blooms of greater rhythms. I am still a creature of the rainforest before I am of these drywall calendar boxes.
We will start fresh with some new flowers to learn. This year, you can remember to greet the crocuses by their name.