The prompt this time was the flower prompt: everyone in the workshop is given a flower that has recently bloomed in San Francisco, and we write in response. For a detailed description of the prompt, see this earlier post.
And just to give you some context for the tone of the following piece, which I wrote last week: we do this exercise every year (and I often do it on my international and Hawaiian retreats as well). So for me, this is a reminder of another year passing. I’ve posted several pieces on this blog in response to this prompt. See those links—as well as what I recently wrote—below.
Nobody sees a flower—really—it is so small it takes time—we haven’t time —and to see takes time, like having a friend takes time.
World, I am your slow guest,
one of the common things
that move in the sun and have
close, reliable friends
in the earth, in the air, in the rock.
I want to tell you a story I haven’t told you before, but I fear I’m all out of stories now. No, really. Perhaps my head is just so filled with news about pandemics and Democratic presidential candidates that there’s little room left for stories that involve flowers, but I think it’s more likely that I’ve told you all of my stories already.
How I drove across the country with my parents on our big move and got stuck in a blizzard in Wyoming. How when we arrived in California at the end of January there were pink blossoms on the trees and mustard flowers growing waist high between the Live Oaks. How my next door neighbors grew orange roses that smelled like citrus, and in early April, the purple irises grew tall and opened lilac colored petals every year: dependable, elegant, the one small joy in my mother’s monotonous days.
Later, I discovered gardenias in Los Angeles—entire paths lined with bushes—so fragrant, they produced a near trance state, and how later, my one big love floated them in a bowl next to the bed we slept in together. In California, I learned that wisteria, with their old and snarled branches, thrive every spring, drooping under the weight of their blossoms, buzzing with bumble bees.
I learned about the Dahlia Garden in Golden Gate Park —about as close to Oz as I was ever going to get—how they came from Mexico originally, how tubers were different from bulbs, how jonquils and narcissus could bloom even in the rainiest February. I want to tell you why lilacs make me melancholy, and why Cecil Brunner roses—tiny pink and candy sweet—remind me of permanence, though flowers are the very epitome of impermanence, and no matter how many babies come into my life, and friends and relatives die, I still have to learn that nothing lasts forever over and over again. Frankly, I’m tired of that lesson, just like I’m tired of telling the same stories over and over again.
What irony, I think now, as I put this pen to paper, that the flowers come back year after year, the cloud of lemon-scented acacia blooming along the back driveway, the Japanese cherry blossoms on 19th Street between Castro and Hartford, the Victoria Box clusters dangling over Sanchez Street near Duboce Park, even the tulips below the 1960’s sign that marks the aging development I live in (“Vista San Francisco”); they will burst back to life year after year only to die again. Still, I keep loving them. Every. Single. Year. And I keep telling these stories over and over again, with these flowers, these old companions, as my backdrop.