July 18, 2011

Do I Smell Like A Corpse Flower?

Here in Houston, we're having another rare event; the blooming of a corpse flower (Amorphophallus titanum or the Titan Arum.) The blooming of this endangered species has only happened 29 times in the U.S., and this is the second time in the space of two years that it has happened in Houston. Not really a very spiritual/existential topic, unless we look at it from a slightly different angle. We've all heard the cliche, "Bloom where you are planted." Those cutesy little sayings bug the daylights out of me, but all this got me thinking a little deeper on the subject after seeing the story of Houston's corpse flower on the news this morning.

"You shall know them by their fruits", as the verse goes about discerning false prophets, but how can we use this as a metaphor to look at ourselves? Any plant that produces a fruit blooms first. Turning this inward, no matter what our fruit is, we have to bloom in order to produce that fruit. The tricky thing is that while we may not have much of a choice in what our fruits to the world are, we have all the choice in the fragrance of our blooms. Does our flower have a sweet or fruitful scent, a stench of roadkill, boiled cabbage, and dirty feet (which is how the corpse flower is often described) or no scent at all? Probably the saddest of these in human terms is the scentless one.

We all know that flowers have different levels of scent, too, some filling the landscape, some requiring walking up to the plant, and others demanding that we smell the individual blossom. And, like the levels of our relationships, we each have scents of those levels to give off to the world. I love the huge, sweet aroma of plants like Gardenias and Magnolias, but the thing about them is that the scent can become overpowering, and with the case of some Magnolias, it can become sickening and spoiled smelling as it hangs in the still air.

My favorite flowers are roses. The climbing and bush roses that fill their vicinity with their perfume are nice, but my favorites are the tea roses, the ones that you have to grasp each flower to draw in and appreciate the smell. To me, they are the most like us in terms of difference and complexity. Each one, beautiful to view, with a deeper appreciation of each as you draw closer. Something that can be appreciated just for its mere existence. Small wonder that they are regarded as the flower that signifies love.

Azaleas would be the flower to fit the saddest category for me. They bloom spectacularly, once each year, yet have no scent at all to draw us in closer (yes, I know all about the Encore azaleas, but this isn't about my horticultural thoughts.) All show, and no go, as the old saying fits, there isn't anything there to keep us coming back and pulling the flower to our noses; they're just something that makes us smile as we walk by and look at it.

And then we have the oddity of the corpse flower, the car wreck of the floral world; drawing crowds to stare and be revolted, but being nothing that anyone would want in their own garden. The only real thing that makes it something of interest is the rarity of its blooming. If they were prolific in their growth and frequent in their blooming, we'd develop herbicides specifically to get rid of it. And we do exactly that to the people in our lives that bloom like a corpse flower.

All of this brings me to ask, when have I been like each of these flowers, and what can I do to change the scent of my next blossom? It's easy to see when we've been like the corpse flower or the rose, not so much like the overpowering Magnolia or the scentless azalea. Perhaps just as important is to ask myself if I have taken the time to enjoy the bloom of another and what I have done to help them be a rose and not a corpse flower.

So today, I'm not going out to be my brother's keeper. Rather, I'll regard myself as my brother's (and my own) horticulturist, working to bring out numerous sweet blossoms from all.

1 comment:

  1. I love so many things about this. Yes, without a doubt, we are called to help our brothers and sisters. But when we take it one step further, to try and bring out the very best blossoms in others - then we are living the wholehearted journey!