Flower music


Yesterday I dreamed of being part of a thrilling, inventive choir that derived its music from plants. Somehow we read the plants as if they were musical notations.

This dream was no doubt inspired by Sunday’s memorial service for my friend, Karena, who passed away the day I was flying to Congo in early July. I had taken a role in caring for her during her four weeks in hospice at home and I had a role in the memorial service, as well.

Karena, an otherworldly musician, composer, and lover of life and all souls, inspired friendship, and she had hundreds of friends. Many helped care for her during her illness and many more sent messages of love, memories, and appreciation. She was a lover of beauty, and her life and everything connected with her reflected that. Where Karena was concerned her friends became, indeed, part of a thrilling, inventive choir.

My role in Sunday’s memorial was to do the flowers. I have been a flower lover since I was a child, pricking my fingers on the thorns of fragrant bush roses as I made bouquets for the table, or playing hide-and-seek around the lilac bush. When I was in Japan as a young adult I took flower-arranging lessons. From austere Zen ikebana I learned principles such as creating dimension, line, and the illusion that all the flowers spring from the same source. Ikebana uses only a few, exquisitely placed blooms. I felt more at home in the related school of moribana–same principles, but applied to arrangements of abundant flowers.

But mostly I just love getting my hands in flowers. Perhaps they do sing to me. I hear their music. I am never happier than when I am whacking and trimming away with the hasami my Japanese teacher gave me, finding the length each stem wants to be and the face it wants to present, poking and turning each one in the vase until they find their harmonies.

The arrangement above has been gracing my porch since Sunday, preserved by unseasonably cool nights. It is one of two large bouquets that flanked the altar, which my friend Liz had arrayed with dozens of white candles to surround the urn. More candles and flowers interspersed photos on the curved railing behind the altar, creating a lovely visual dance.

I believe Karena’s spirit is responsible for some of the details, like the flowers that went into the bouquets.

At first we’d envisioned a pink and purple color scheme to coordinate with a favorite shawl of Karena’s, which Liz was going to use on the altar. I bought bunches of pink and purple glads and was looking frantically for Stargazer lilies to use as focal flowers, but they are a bit out of season and I hate to rely on florists, especially in midsummer.

But a day before the service, Karena’s wife, Jeanne, could not find the purple and pink shawl. And so Liz used a more subdued brocade cloth on the altar, which opened up the color scheme for the flowers.

“More flowers! More flowers!” Someone was egging me on a mad quest around the countryside the day before the memorial, visiting markets and farmstands. “Purple and orange!” popped into my mind. And then suddenly the message was “Sunflowers!” and I immediately envisioned the arrangements–brilliant glads waltzing with sunflowers, with wild roadside Queen Anne’s lace floating above. All local, all in season, all very Karena.

Jeanne said she found the missing shawl a day after the service, tucked away behind a bin in the basement. I think Karena had engineered the shawl’s disappearance so I wouldn’t have to do matchy-matchy pink and purple bouquets. I think she really wanted those sunflowers.

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