The Gift of Flowers

by Melannie Svoboda SND on June 22, 2015

At this time of the year, our convent yard here in Chardon is graced with many flowers. In spring we said, “Hello again!” to our purple lilacs and white lilies-of-the-valley. Then we welcomed our azeleas, roses, and wachmacallits. (I use that term affectionately for flowers I cannot name.) Right now as I write this the peonies in our backyard are spreading their scent everywhere. If I lean out my third floor window I can catch their sweet aroma. Hmmmm! They smell so good!  And Sister Sandy (our resident gardener) has decorated our side porch with yellow and orange begonias and multicolored pansies. Beautiful!

What a drab world it would be without flowers, don’t you think? But sometimes flowers are so plentiful and unassuming, we can miss noticing them or we can take them for granted. So today I’d like to say a few words about flowers meadowflowers—so you (and I!) can remember to appreciate them. First, flowers are simply the reproductive structure of plants. They serve an important function (propagation), but they do it in a highly imaginative and gorgeous way. From time immemorial we humans have used flowers to beautify our environment. I love the old proverb: If you have two pennies left, spend one on bread and the other on a lily. We humans have also used flowers as objects of romance, religion, medicine, and even food. (Edible flowers include carnations, roses, honeysuckle, sunflowers, pansies, and many more.)

Over the centuries, humans began associating flowers with certain words or emotions. This language of flowers is called floriography and was especially popular in Victorian England when people used to send “talking bouquets” to one another. For example, azaleas say, “Take care of yourself.” A purple hyacinth says, “I’m sorry.” The lily-of-the-valley says, “You’ve made my life complete.” And the chrysanthemum says, “You’re a wonderful friend.”

flower rosepgSometimes flowers give a more general but deeply appreciated message. When my brother John died a few years ago, one of my SND friends appeared on my doorstep the following morning holding a small potted blue primrose for me. It was a simple gesture that spoke eloquently of her love and concern for me. When I celebrated my 70th birthday last year, my cousin, Sister Ellenann Mach, decorated my cake with real daisies, my favorite flower. (Why do I like daisies? They are simple, ordinary, cheerful, and open-faced. These are qualities I like in people too.)

In my book, When the Rain Speaks, I devote a chapter to flowers. I conclude the chapter with a list, a litany if flowers orchidyou will, of the names of fifty flowers. I asked the reader (as I’m asking you here) to read the names slowly and reverently—aloud, if possible. If the name conjures up an image for you, sit with that image for a moment or two. If it doesn’t, then simply take delight in the colorful name. Here we go:

Rose, daisy, calla lily, baby’s breath, gardenia, creeping phlox, petunia, heather, forsythia, pussy willow, star of Bethlehem, foxglove, iris, sagebrush, aster, columbine, myrtle, clematis, geranium, impatiens, hibiscus, violet, shamrock, sunflower, bougainvillea, Queen Anne’s lace, Rose of Sharon, black-eyed Susan, primrose, hosta, spotted nettle, bird of paradise, kangaroo paw, orchid, candytuft, variegated sedum, larkspur, amaryllis, trumpet vine, oriental poppy, delphinium, sweet William, snapdragon, zinnia, morning glory, chocolate cosmos, magnolia, love-in-a-mist, ostrich fern, and forget-me-not.

To conclude, I have a real treat for you: a video by David de los Santos Gil. Using time-lapse photography and lovely music, this video captures the opening of dozens of flowers. It is my hope that this video may nourish our sense of wonder and our gratitude to God for the gift of flowers.

 

What role do flowers play in your life? Do you have a favorite flower? If so, why is it your favorite?

 

{ 20 comments… read them below or add one }

Kathleen June 22, 2015 at 1:43 am

Good Morning from England where Queen Ann’s lace is everywhere! It can be seen in gardens, peeking out through brick walls, and by the side of the road. I like it because it is so delicate.

Giving my mother fresh flowers is such a joy. She arranges them so carefully and likes how long they last.

Cheers!
Kathleen

Reply

Chris Keil June 22, 2015 at 8:31 am

Beautiful! I just love flowers! Thank you!

Reply

Sister Miriam June 22, 2015 at 9:18 am

My grandmother had lily of the valley at her beach home and my mother transplanted some to our yard and I loved looking at them as I grew up. Now my sister has traveled to another state and has the same lily of the valley and now also her daughter. A beautiful tradition passed down through the generations.

Reply

Mary Schneider June 22, 2015 at 9:35 am

I too love flowers, a lot!!! In Nevada I loved to see the Indian Paintbrush each spring. I grew all sorts of flowers there, wild flowers, perennials, annuals, etc. I recall reading about flowers in your book, When The Rain Speaks, but I loaned it to someone years ago and now cannot remember who it was. I am ordering a new one today. Here in Wisconsin I have been enjoying the white lilacs which are so very fragrant. Thank you for this affirmation of God’s beauty which we all can enjoy.

Reply

Rita June 22, 2015 at 9:37 am

I have a friend named ROSE and she is!

Thank you for your sweet reflection this morning that reminded me to be grateful of my gardens of friends

Reply

Dorothy Janofsky June 22, 2015 at 9:50 am

My favorite flower is the daisy just as it is yours. I like its simplicity and long life. Thank you for this beautiful reflection.

Dorothy

Reply

Janet, SND June 22, 2015 at 10:28 am

Thank you, Melannie! What a beautif’ul tribute to God’s wondrous creation. My mother who died in February loved flowers. My sister made sure to get bouquets of tulips and iris, flowers we always had in our garden. I remember my grandmother for her gladiolas and always figured I would have bouquets of them at my wedding. Instead I entered the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur and now love the sunflower. Our foundress, St. Julie Billiart said, “As the sunflower turns to the sun, we must always turn to God.” Janet

Reply

Cathy June 22, 2015 at 11:35 am

Watching the video reminded me of the slow, wondrous work of God that bursts forth its beauty often without our noticing the process. Loved the images!

Reply

Goldie June 22, 2015 at 1:23 pm

Flowers! To God be the glory now and forever! Amen!
Thank you, Melannie.

Reply

Annette June 22, 2015 at 1:41 pm

Beautiful! Flowers are one of my favorite things. I love the rubrum lily. I love it’s scent and color! Really though I love all flowers!!!

Reply

Karen June 22, 2015 at 1:55 pm

My favorite flowers as a child were “hens & chicks” – mainly because of their name, and Dahlias (I still go to the Burton Fair every year just to see the Dahlia displays). Now I’m hooked on Hydrangea and how their colors change through the blooming cycle and how the soil pH determines their color.
One treasured flower in my yard is a Gladiolus that we received as bulbs as a “wedding favor” years & years ago. It has the most intensely vivid fushia color when it blooms. I wish I could post a picture here!
Thanks as always for a welcome respite on a busy Monday!

Reply

Mary June 22, 2015 at 1:59 pm

Oh how beautiful and majestic!!! Thank you!!! We can only imagine how beautiful heaven is!! I live in Kansas and love the Sunflower- it keeps its face on the sun as we should keep our gaze on the face of Christ!
Blessings!

Reply

Linda June 22, 2015 at 8:58 pm

hello Sr. Melanie,
I suffer from a chronic pain condition, and some days I don’t know what I would do without flowers! They lift me out of my self-pity and take my mind off my obsession with my pain. I always have a fresh bouquet in my house and especially love carnations because they last so long!

Reply

maria June 22, 2015 at 10:23 pm

My love of flower gardening came from my 92 yo mom who now comes and tends to my flowers. They are my therapy. On Sundays I take my work basket and just start puttering. I have many a conversation with God pulling weeds and dead heading, but also transplanting watering fertilizing and planting seeds. It is my therapy. I love it all!!

Reply

Odelia June 23, 2015 at 11:08 am

How beautiful! I love flowers. In the room where I am sitting I have 3 different colored violets, 3 geraniums and an orchid all in bloom. I like zinnias because they are colorful and attract butterflies. But one special flower I like is Bird of Paradise.
Odelia

Reply

Joanne Bennardo June 23, 2015 at 4:37 pm

Dear Sister Melannie,
About thirty years ago, I was struck with both the tenderness and strength of the intricate columbine. I planted them in my own garden about twenty years, and every year since, I am still amazed at their beauty. For me, they represent God’s creative goodness.

In addition, your reflection reminds me of my daily walk. Each day I pass the same fence around the same corner, but the other day, I noticed very long stemmed orange and yellow small wild flowers, similar to buttercups, doing their best to reach over the top of the fence. The sight of them brought a prayer to mind. I wondered what fences, what obstacles, do I put in the way of God trying His best to reach over. Thank you for the reminder of the flower-inspired prayer.

God bless you. Joanne

Reply

Annie June 23, 2015 at 8:08 pm

Thanks for the beautiful reflection and the flower video. What a wonderful reminder that each flower contains a surprise when it is opened—its own unique beauty. I recently returned from visiting my family in NC. My sister took me to a lavender farm. Most of the flowers were picked already, but it was still nice. It was very hot, but they even had ice cream made with honey and lavender! I brought back a bunch of lavender. My suitcase smelled nice!!

Reply

Cathy June 24, 2015 at 8:41 pm

It reminds me of the line in the song we sometimes sing at church . . . “Hearts unfold like flowers before You, praising God the Lord of all.”

Reply

Melannie Svoboda SND June 25, 2015 at 11:04 am

Thank you to all who have responded so far to this reflection on flowers. I really enjoyed hearing about some of your favorite flowers. Your stories were inspiring too–how certain flowers connect us to certain individuals in our life. I also liked the idea of keeping certain flowers in the family and passing them down to the next generation. A few of the lilacs in our courtyard at our provincial center are from my father’s cuttings… And yes, watching those flowers unfold in the video reminds us of our own unfolding in the spiritual life. Thanks again for writing! Gratefully, Sr. Melannie

Reply

Patrick Mahoney June 27, 2015 at 8:41 pm

This year I have had absolutely beautiful Iris flowers. Now the Hydrangeas are starting to bloom.
Each flower unfolds and the beauty is awesome. I wonder how God had the time to create such
beauty in the billions of plants all over this world. What a God!

Reply

Leave a Comment