For cut flowers bought in a shop, these carnations are very old. Survivors, you might say. I carried them home two weeks ago today, part of an ill-advised purchase of red wanna-be petunias that were really something else (what I still don’t know), plus these rimmed carnations, plus a large bunch of spiky greens, all of which I disliked intensely once I had managed to stuff every last stem into an oversized container fit for major floral condolence. I had wanted yellow flowers, or orange ones, and not too many. I had wanted to put them in my own much smaller rectangular glass vase, wanted them to look at home. Instead what I let myself be talked into was stiff, institutional, fancy. (See “Meditation on Flowers,” two posts back.).
But after ten days, the petunia wanna-be’s began to shed their red petals all over the glass table top. The spiky green things wilted and yellowed. The carnations hung on. Time isn’t always the enemy. Now that I have only the carnations, they seem more orange. And now they do look the way I wanted them to, a little sloppy, a little droopy, just right next to Bill’s orange bowl.
They’re not going to last, I know that. If you look closely, you can see one carnation has given up, its stem bent sharply towards the ground. Several of the others are beginning to wrinkle. But even if it’s just for now, that’s fine. Isn’t now all any of us have, even the young who feel they’ll live forever?
For now, there’s also a bonus. It’s on my other table, in a little vase I’ve had since I was twenty-seven. That’s fifty-nine years ago. Old can surprise you. Hang on.