Thursday, March 22, 2012

The Language of Flowers


The Language of Flowers

Here in the south, winter is ever mercurial. There are Januarys when the supermarket shelves are stripped bare by those whirled into a panic over the latest snowy weather report. Then there are Decembers when the Christmas wreath adorning the front door finds itself totally obscured by stubborn scarlet leaves that still hold tight to the limbs of the dogwood tree by the porch. We never know what to expect. It is a rare year, however, when winter shuns us completely, with nary a snowflake nor gale. But such has been our fate this year and Edward and I, both ardent lovers of cold, have been seriously displeased by the weather. January felt like March. February flirted like May.

So it was on this hot March day that we two disgruntled souls made our way along the sidewalk for our afternoon walk, both of us feeling fairly resentful towards the vernal mantilla that now draped itself so lavishly over our street. But like any coquette, this newly born season so famous for beauty began, ever so slowly, to win us both over in whispers.

The first voice we heard came from the wisteria vine escalading up into the pine trees, its raiment of lavender blossoms seducing the air with sweet fragrance. Then we came to the chorus of cherry trees, with petals so white as to be a reinvention of the colour. They dotted our pathway - one here, one there - their beauty both shy and extravagant at once. We stopped under this ivory umbrella, both of us breathing deeply. Edward glanced up at me just as I looked down at him. And we smiled. Ah, we couldn’t help ourselves. All around us, it was Spring. Red and purple tulips, yellow daffodils. Azaleas and hyacinths, foxglove, wild violet. Each flower seemed to be speaking to us in a language almost audible and one heard so clearly on the first day of Spring. Colourful voices lifted up all around us - a Strauss waltz, a Wordsworth poem.

Perhaps the Victorians understood better than we the communicative power inherent in the natural world, a power most manifest in Springtime. These romantic souls used floriography, better known as the language of flowers, to express their deepest feelings; feelings that usually could never be spoken outloud. Lovers would send coded messages to one another hidden in bouquets of flowers. A posy of baby’s breath told a lady she was loved everlastingly and if that posy included some jonquils, honeysuckle, daphne and moss rose, well then... she was a lucky girl indeed. But oh, it was a dark day when a clutch of yellow roses was left at the door.
Purple Hyacinths begged for forgiveness.
Verbena requested prayer.

I cannot help but think of this language now as Edward and I make for home. Each flower we see is sending us a sweetly secret message for this new season.
The wisteria calls out a welcome, the tulips speak only of love.
The pear blossoms remind us of comfort while the daffodils vow a new beginning.
And as we pass by the little bed of lily-of-the valley that returns every year to a neighbour’s garden, I swear I can hear those tiny flowers singing again and again, “return to happiness, return to happiness”, their perfumed voices fading slowly on the afternoon breeze.
Return to Happiness.
Is there a better way to think about Spring?

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I would be remiss if I did not mention The Language of Flowers, by Vanessa Diffenbaugh, a book I recently read and completely loved. A wonderful story of forgiveness that also communicates in a floral language. A perfect story to read in this daffodil month of new beginnings. You can also investigate this most expressive of languages for yourself with A Victorian Flower Dictionary, HERE.

25 comments:

  1. Your language is beautiful Pamela...you have mastered the language of flowers. 'Return to Happiness'...you are right, there is no better way to think about Spring. :)xx

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  2. Pamela...I remember our springs in Atlanta...the flowers, the mantle of pollen! We are enjoying a remarkable spring here in Canada...the crocus, the snowdrops, the daffodils...but I am waiting for the forsythia, my harbinger of spring!

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  3. I'm loving the early Spring flowers.....because tomorrow I leave for SE Asia and by the time I return many will be over. I've enjoyed my daffodils but will I be back to catch the tulips? The bluebells are just now 'ringing' and the dogwood blossoms turning from citron to white. Azalaeas, please wait for me - especially the George Tabor, those blowzy pink ones, my favorites!

    Love your words Pamela. sorry I've been missing in action - and now I'm off again, this is a big travel year! Sailing aboard the Queen Elizabeth - very elegant and hopefully will take me back to the days of real adventure travel on the high seas!!

    Enjoy Spring walking days with Edward.
    Hugs - Mary

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  4. Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful, Pamela.

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  5. Lovely, lovely - I, too, missed the cold of winter but am looking forward to a real spring.

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  6. We are in Limbo here in the Pacific Northwest - in some terrible place neither Spring nor Winter. No flowers, no snow - no sunshine, no sparkling cold - not blue sky, no pristine drifts.
    I wonder which flower speaks of longing - that's the one I'd be looking for.

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  7. Pamela I too miss the beauty's of winter; for that is one thing I missed when I loved in Southern California, the four seasons.

    However I welcome spring with open arms, that is when I really love to walk the trails and see the new blooms!

    xoxo
    Karena
    Art by Karena

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  8. If only we would have been able to trade a couple of weeks of your bursting vernal season for our unseasonably inclement weather, it would have evened out!! Love the painting, the prose, and I must find that book for a friend of mine. Thank you!

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  9. If Edward knew about flowers you'd always have a house full of tulips.

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  10. There is, for me, nothing quite like the scent of violets to signal that Spring is really underway.

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  11. Happy spring to you!
    Happy autumn to me!
    Beautiful.

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  12. Happy Spring, Pamela...glad you're enjoying it so much because I know how you and Edward love that cold weather.

    I adore walking in the cool dark of 6 a.m. No need for sunscreen, the air is moist, and the flowers are SOOOOOOO fragrant at that time.

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  13. So sweet this painting of your words describing the endearing language of flowers.

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  14. Spring is terribly seductive, and I want to spend every moment outside. I'm thinking of washing the windows, which may be folly because the pollen will soon coat everything in chartreuse. I, too, enjoyed The Language of Flowers. I was thinking of doing arrangements of rhododendron, which I will have in copious amounts, for the rehearsal dinner for my son's wedding in early June. Looked it up. Bad idea. Maybe it will be mountain laurel instead.

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  15. As a huge fan of winter (albeit a Southern California winter) I too was disappointed that we didn't have more rain or cool weather...that is until last weekend. It was cold, rainy and blustery. Maybe you'll have a bit of cold down the line...hopefully it won't hurt the wonderful spring blooms you and Edward enjoyed today.
    Karen at Garden, Home and Party

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  16. I love flowers too Pamela for their beauty, their different 'characters' and what they bring to us. I have written poems on that theme.

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  17. Spring is such a lovely time of year with all the fresh green of new leaves and the colours of spring flowers. The language of flowers is something I've always been aware of but not really known much about - rosemary for remembrance, pansies for thoughts and red roses for love is about the extent of my knowledge. My daughter gave me blue hyacinths and yellow tulips for Mothers Day and I've checked - they mean 'constancy' and 'there's sunshine in your smile'. I'm pretty sure she had no idea of that though:)

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  18. We've had a mild winter here too. The springs flowers are lovely. My orchids are blooming too. Thanks for such a wonderful post!

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  19. Ah, Pamela...you have done it once again! Your stories leave me smiling, wishing for a four-legged companion, and running out for my next new book! Thank you for the lovely post!

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  20. Dear Pamela ~ such a beautifully written post ~ we, here in extreme Southeast Missouri (upper South!) have had the same "non-Winter"...and 80 degree temps (AC humming...) Strange weather indeed! Lovely blog! I'm a new follower!
    Best,
    Anne ♥♥

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  21. Your gorgeous words make me imagine spring. Even after our warm week, only a few crocuses are budding.

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  22. I love the painting, wherever do you find them?

    We are enjoying a wonderful spell of sunshine, everyone is hoping it will last.

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  23. Hello Pamela

    Your walk with Edward was most enjoyable, I felt I was along with you.
    Wistaria are spectacular and I thank you for interpreting the meaning of the various flowers. I did know about yellow roses, I think there was a song about 18 yellow roses.

    Continued joy as you glide through spring

    Helen xx

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  24. Wonderful essay, Pamela. I also read and loved the book, "The Language of Flowers." Thanks for putting the link for the Victorian book on what flowers represent. I've been wanting one since I read Vanessa Diffenbaugh's book. :)

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