How can we doubt the idea of resurrection and eternal life when we’re surrounded by a message about it? Wildflowers have their own language, and this seems to be their theme. This year the flowers are early, and it looks like it’s not going to be as stunning as Texas roadside flowers can be, probably because of the dry winter. Nevertheless, the flowers are out, and they have things to say!
To me, the first flowers in spring are all about the promise. Flowers are delicate things, with a short lifespan. They are easily killed or damaged. Many of them, like the Texas favorite bluebonnet, only have a few weeks in which to reproduce themselves for the next winter. They are fragile, yet nearly invincible. They show up for a brief window, and leave with a promise to be back.
According to tradition, the language of flowers is complex, with yellows meaning one thing, blues another, and reds representing the most powerful emotions. In the Victorian Age, in both Europe and in the US, it was popular to send ‘secret’ messages to others using flowers. The idea that flowers have intrinsic meaning is, however, older than that. The ancient Greeks associated the rose with Aphrodite, the goddess of love. Shakespeare used flowers to symbolize the specific emotions of the giver toward the receiver. Author J.K. Rowling also used flower symbolism, so it is in some small way not completely out of fashion. Even now, nearly everyone still knows what a red rose means.
I do think each flower, which is actually a complex miracle of geometric precision that is exquisitely designed, may well have a particular meaning. I don’t know all the things the Victorians knew about them, or even if they were right about their assessments in the first place. What I see is that bluebonnets, and a riot of hundreds of others, come back year after year, even after months, sometimes years, of drought and heat. It seems obvious that endless fields of bluebonnets move us because somehow, we don’t quite know how, they remind us of heaven, of the promise of eternal life. The seeds they produce have to die in order to live again. They get buried in freezing cold ground, but they survive.
I don’t need a huge field of endless vistas of flowers to make me happy. There is something perfect about imperfect scenery as well. A flower growing between cracks in the concrete is a triumph. I like to see them filling up abandoned lots, covering trash heaps. I like to see a few stray bluebonnets on the side of Bangs hill. Troubles are many, but life is strong. There are a few bluebonnets up there. They are not great big ones, they don’t stretch forever into the sunset. They might not get a calendar page, you could even say they’re a bit lonesome, but they’re still growing. It was a tough year for plants, but the flowers are here.
It sometimes takes a lot of tries before you get a perfect spring, but enough to keep going is enough for another attempt. Whatever this world gives to bear, the flowers come back again in the spring, fresh and new and beautiful, sometimes stronger, sometimes just carrying on the best they can. It can be a hard scramble to make it through, but in the spring, when the dark and testing times are over, the rain comes and they bloom. Life is stronger than death.
Diane Adams is a local journalist whose columns appear Thursdays on BrownwoodNews.com