Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Dead flowers

A year or so before she died, Nora Ephron made two lists, one with all the things she wouldn't miss when she died, and the other with all that she would miss. I find this idea extremely appealing.

On the list of what she wouldn't miss, a list of twenty-four things, perhaps one for every hour of the day, she included 'dead flowers'. But on the same length list of what she would miss, she did not include flowers, though she did include 'spring'.

This intrigued me somewhat, as I totally understood why dead flowers and not living flowers, yet I wondered why this made sense. On the surface it seemed a somewhat strange kind of sense.

Perhaps it went without saying that she would miss flowers if dead flowers made it onto her relatively short list of things she wouldn't miss. Perhaps spring covered flowers. Or perhaps liking and missing flowers was too much of a feminine cliché for Nora.

But instead of these simpler explanations, I wondered if this strange sense did not hide a deeper truth about the greater clarity that there is in death than in life, a clarity dead and living flowers amply symbolise. A dead and dry, shrivelled up and shapeless flower that was once a bright and vibrant creature replete with extraordinary colour and form, is so clearly a miserable specimen that not missing it almost goes without saying, though I dare say I wouldn't have thought to put it on my list.

But the beauty and wonder of the living specimen, though obvious, as obvious as the beauty and wonder of life itself, is, at the same time, somewhat elusive. Perhaps because it's wonder is too obvious; too in your face. Too cheerful. But more than that I think it's because we take flowers for granted, most of us, in exactly the same way that most of us take life for granted, until its over, or almost over.

But not dead flowers. I never fail to regret the passing of a flower I have seen or 'known' alive. My feelings on dead flowers are much clearer than my feelings on living ones, and so it is and always will be, I believe, as with human life and death.

Nora Ephron (1941-2012), for those who don't know her, was an American satirical writer, commentator and critic, probably best known for her screenplay for When Harry met Sally.

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