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I keep flowers in vases around my house for way too long. Long past their prime. Long after they have started to wither and fade.
I really love flowers. My mom has been a floral designer all my life. One might think that because of that, I might possibly tire of flowers or at least appreciate them less. Or that I might associate them with a lot of work. But it’s just the opposite, I never tire of flowers. I am always taken by their beauty. I’m convinced that all of the work that goes into designing arrangements for special occasions or weddings or funerals is completely worth it. I almost always have flowers in my house. My space feels incomplete without them.
In early summer, peonies are my cut flower of choice. I don’t have any bushes of my own, so I will line up as early as I can at my local Trader Joe’s to get first pick. I scour the bunches, looking for the perfect, marshmallowy blooms. Little spheres of possibility. I rush home with my treasures, fill a vase with warm water, lovingly arrange them, and wait for their glory to unfurl.
Sometimes I have to cut them again and give them more warm water to encourage them to open, but the wait is always worth it. When the blossoms open and layers of lush and textural petals reveal themselves, I am awestruck and amazed.
If I’m really lucky, and get the highly sought after Coral Charm, it’s an added bonus. Coral Charms Peonies are a saturated, juicy coral color when they first bloom, and as they open and age they fade — turning a light salmon color, before becoming buttercream, and then completely fading to eggshell. I love watching the entire process and get great joy out of their life cycle — beginning to end. I will keep my peonies long past the time the crispy petals start dropping and cascade onto my floor.
I hope that there is something to delighting in the entire life cycle of flowers, to enjoying past prime peonies. I’m aware of how it contrasts with many of our cultural narratives on newness and youth.
Maybe hoarding flowers for too long is a bit of my resistance to discarding or ignoring things that age and wither.
I’ve thought a fair bit about aging lately. I have four younger siblings. My youngest sister is fourteen years my junior. Emerson often reminds me of just how much older than her I am. She just finished her senior year of high school, so much life and possibility before her. Her youth and vitality amaze me. She is beautiful on the inside and out, though she doesn’t always know it.
The day after Emerson graduates, I plan to leave for a week-long horseback riding trip to South Dakota with my grandparents. An incredible opportunity and privilege. I find my grandparents to be so beautiful and vital in their advancing age, though at times getting older is quite hard on them.
Emerson has all the hope and possibility of those early marshmallowy blooms, while my grandparents are what many might consider past their prime — maybe buttercream in peony time.
While I appreciate the beauty and possibility of youth, I also really admire the wisdom and enchantment of a life well lived. I’m in my early 30s and I’m really curious about what it means to age well. What does it look like to resist the cultural narrative of glamorized and glorified youth? I want to learn to better embrace my life and the lives of others in every stage and season. I’m striving to find gratitude for the seasons I’ve weathered while looking with hope on the days ahead. I also acknowledge and grieve that we live in a world where aging is a privilege. So many don’t get to live out the seasons they have hoped for, their bloom falling to the ground or withering far too soon. Losses and grief beyond words.
The short lifespan of flowers, their novelty, their frivolity is teaching me to better embrace life, petal by petal. To try to look at even the blemishes and scars with curiosity and wonder, and not to throw away or discard something too soon. There is still beauty to be savored even in the crispy falling petals.