Bouquets and Times Adrift

“Now I am going to talk to you about . . . flowers.” — C. L.

çiçek eskizleri by Bircan Yıleri
çiçek eskizleri by Bircan Yıleri

I had been sitting at my desk for about half an hour when I noticed the big flower, an Asiatic Lily, that she put on my desk with the tiny vase. Months ago, when I first moved here, we spent quite some time in arranging the interior spaces like the study. Now it had to have two desks and two chairs instead of one each. But despite the limited space and the drastic change in moving in together, everything went so smoothly. Maybe we managed to say now together, inhabit the time we were thrown into, facing each other. Our love made things easy.

When I started decorating my section of the study; arranging the desk organizers, putting things on the wall above the desk, she made a promise: that I shall always have flowers on my desk. A sentiment that echoed in the dustiest parts of my heart. I loved the romanticism, and I loved even more how she saw — with such tenderness — I was a sucker for it.

She kept that promise. Of course, I also kept it up; we alternated on the duty of making sure there were always flowers in the house. And it wasn’t only my desk; now she also had a tiny vase on hers, and our living room table always held different kinds of flowers. Tulips, lisianthus, chrysanthemums, daisies, roses, gerberas… Inevitably, there were times when we didn’t have any flowers in the house, or when the flowers were old and withered, the water in the vase resembling an uninviting pond forgotten somewhere.

These times came to prove how we were constantly trying to put the effort to live well. Sometimes we did not have the energy to put in the effort, or we did not “have the time.” The not so constant circulation of flowers in our home said something about our continuous struggle to keep up with life, with our desire to salvage some happiness, or at least be content. To find joy amid the dark chaos of the world, of life.

Whenever we let our gaze stay a bit longer on the beauty of each and every flower, there appeared a sense of hope disguised as normalcy. As if the world was burning to ashes, as if the virus was becoming the ultimate nemesis that only manages to invoke feelings of anger and lack of justice. As if.

The physical comfort that I experience sitting and reading the newspaper in our living room breaks down into its fibers as my eyes follow printed words of war and death and displacement. It feels wrong to feel so well placed; but I am much too familiar with this feeling, this yearning for some balance, some sense. I watch her walk around the house, so able, and … there. She is here, with me. My other loved ones are far away, additionally separated from me by the fear and danger a virus imposes on our lives. Some evenings I feel the pangs of helplessness and hasret. I only have my mother tongue to describe it. It feels as if each time hurts even more, but there is only so much hurt one can regularly take. So I pretend to have roots and show some love to the hurt.

When I lift my head from the newspaper, or from an old photograph from my camera roll that I was not ready to encounter, I see the flowers. The lush yellows and pinks and calming whites and serious dark purples. Their presence is different than our plants that are now a serious part of our living room, a green and brown refuge hosting two. The potted plants give a sense of rootedness, stability as well as change, albeit very slow. We watch them grow, suffer, move according to the sun, flourish or die. But they are alive. They inhabit time differently. A time that sometimes matches with our own, and sometimes falls out of it (we do occasionally fail in sustaining them, leaves dropping like old scabs tentatively touched). The flowers, on the other hand, remain, and usually bloom, despite having lost their roots. Sometimes we watch an Asiatic Lily bud for days before we witness the open flower with all its audacious, sensual beauty. They feel alive. Their presence carries the purpose of being temporary. A colorful fragrance of time that requires relatively little care, and then to be left alone to its own beauty and gradual, dramatic finitude.

It is part of the fun for us to try different flowers, have variety. Choosing a bouquet in the supermarket is an act of deciding on the beauty of the coming week in our home, a frame of time and space we maintain. Another part is the act of remembering to get them, the duty of “keeping this up,” working for joy. Sensual stimulation compensating for social stimulation?

Even when everything feels, or is, shit, even when our individual lives bring us fatigue, stress, or lethargy, buying flowers, arranging them in the vase, and giving them that specific period of time to live without roots with us offer a strange lifeline. A lifeline made of flower dust, leaves, and occasional fragrance. A lifeline like the daisy chains my grandmother and I used to make on the meadows of the first town I remember living in. The wetness of the stems rolled into a wreath big enough for my head, the strong smell of daisies in their white and yellow, the pride with which I would wear the fresh tiara. And become transcendental. Who says I was stuck in the realm of immanence?

What is this place I am stuck now? It is not home, it is not time. Maybe a sliver of my floating, earth-covered roots got stuck when a now shut the door behind me.

Our heightened temporal confusion in lockdown latches on to the fleeting but repetitive temporality of the cut flowers. As they come and go, they bring a sense of newness, and a sense of ending. During a time where none of these senses come easily, we surrender to the animating joy of picking flowers, the freshest of them in the market, cleaning them before putting it in the vase and taking a pure as possible pleasure in throwing a gaze in their direction whenever we enter a room that holds flowers in a vase. An exercise in attention to joy.

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