Petal to the metal: On the hunt for my floral soul mate

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Sunflowers bloom in a field
The sunflowers in a field near me have not bloomed yet but they make me so happy.

I’ve been thinking about my favorite flower and how I no longer have one. 

As a child, I loved yellow roses. I’m not sure why, except that my mom’s favorite color was yellow and that probably informed my choice. Isn’t it funny how, as children, we absorb even the smallest things, like preference for color?

When I was in my 20s, I loved tulips. On our first date, my now ex-husband (and father of my child) brought tulips to my doorstep when he picked me up. The gesture was sweet, but I couldn’t help but notice, as we walked past, that the tulips in front of the courthouse a block away were missing. 

 Yes, he picked them from the ground at the Allegheny Federal Courthouse in Pennsylvania. (Apologies to the sweet town of Hollidaysburg.)

 A few years later there were pastel colored tulips in my bouquet for our spring wedding. They were perfect for the occasion. I even had them dried and preserved in a glass box.

The thing no one told me about divorce is that you I would have to give up a lot of favorites. For me, it was tulips. They’re still beautiful but they are no longer my favorite.

Where is that glass box of flowers now? I could not tell you.

It occurred to me only recently that I no longer have a favorite flower. I felt a little off when I discovered this, like a human walking around without a favorite color or candy. But I took it on as a challenge and something fun to do and I set out to find the perfect flower for me.

It felt like a gift, this chance to start anew. To discover something in middle age. 

Along the journey, I’ve learned a lot about flowers. Each flower has its own associated symbolism. Roses are often linked to love and passion, while sunflowers represent happiness and cheerfulness.

Spring is the perfect time to  conduct my flower hunt.

As I walk around my neighborhood each day I look at every flower that sprouts. “Could you be the one for me?” I say to the snapdragons. “Have you got what it takes?” I question the daffodils.

Perhaps the most beautiful flowers are those I have never seen. 

The middlemist red camellia is gorgeous but rare, and hasn’t been seen in its native China for over 100 years. With only two known living specimens in the world – one in New Zealand and the other in the United Kingdom – it holds a strong claim to the title of flower queen. I love her!

A middlemist red camellia

Can a flower be your favorite if you’ve never seen one in person? 

Is unseen beauty still beauty? 

Sometimes unseen beauty isn’t physical beauty but the beauty of life circumstances. Sometimes beauty is unknown, like what saves us from tragedy.

“You never know what worse luck your bad luck has saved you from” said Ellis Bell in the novel “No Country for Old Men” by Cormac McCarthy.

I think about that a lot.

Unseen beauty abounds: Compassion, joy, memories and dreams are all unseen and beautiful.  Acts of kindness and selflessness are unseen beauty, as well as the complexity of nature itself. There is unseen beauty in the intricate dance of ecosystems, the underlying patterns of the universe, and the unseen forces that shape our world.

Where is the unseen beauty in your life?

I spent the last week sick with pharyngitis, laryngitis and bronchitis. It was not a fun week. I couldn’t do much and felt frustrated by my inertia.

Yet finding my floral fancy reminded me: In hard times, it helps to remember that there is unseen beauty all around.


👉🏻 Quick hit: As I continue my search for the perfect flower, I invite you to tell me about yours. Hit me up @merecummings on all social or at meredithcummings@gmail.com.

✍️ What I’m writing:

I jumped in to help The New York Times with its earthquake coverage by live blogging and as a contributor to this story.

I reviewed “The Divorcees,” by Rowan Beaird,  for The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

📚 What I’m reading: 

I’m usually reading anywhere from two to six books going at once and now is no exception. (You can always see what I’m up to on Goodreads.) One of my favorite reasons to read is to learn. I just finished “Falling Back in Love with Being Human: Letters to Lost Souls,” by Kai Cheng Thom, an excellent book that taught me so much.

I read a lot books of poetry. Poetry is one of my true loves and I have read a lot of Billy Collins’ books over the years but somehow missed Questions About Angels. Collins is a polarizing poet because he’s accessible to the masses and was Poet Laureate of the United States. He’s funny, He’s witty. And many people (like my dad, who gave me my love of literature) don’t consider him a true poet. I’ve never really cared what people think about what I read as long as it makes me happy. Give it a go! see what you think. 

As always, thanks for reading!

☕️ Please support my caffeine habit ☕️

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