Sunday, August 22, 2010

Contemplating Flowers

Contemplating Flowers
    Walking to the mailbox I am greeted by my neighbor’s tall flowers. In August they are at their peek. This wild array looks as thought it has sprung up entirely on its own. But a fellow gardener knows otherwise.


    Since revisiting passages in Anne Morrow Lindbergh’s Gift from the Sea I’ll share with you what I found - a lovely thought for Mother Culture. 
“Arranging a bowl of flowers in the morning can give a sense of quiet in a crowded day – like writing a poem or saying a prayer. What matters most is that one be for a time inwardly attentive.”

    I’ve always been partial to red zinnias. These ended up in the hallway, on the windowsill at the top of the stairs – a window I pass often. This photograph is meant to be my gift of flowers to you. In the language of flowers zinnia means “thoughts of absent friends.” Isn’t that perfect? As soon as I read it out of my used copy of Kate Greenaway’s Language of Flowers I thought of sharing zinnias with you. It’s been wonderful hearing from you. Thank you for your comments and handwritten cards. I cannot describe to you how much your personal messages have encouraged me. And I am taking note of the kinds of posts that are uplifting to you.

   Are you as fond of Kate Greenaway’s ladies dressed in Regency gowns and surrounded by countryside, as I am?

Whoever the previous owner of this soiled book was, she (I suppose) must have referred to it often. By evidence of the book’s smudges left on the dustcover, my guess is she was a gardener. 

    August’s flowers are bold and brazen to survive Pennsylvania’s heat. Three August sunflowers sit near my kitchen sink. They seem so at home in a yellow kitchen. Each day they shed a little pile of yellow pollen onto the counter. Better here than in a bedroom where that much pollen on a nightstand would be an impediment to a restful sleep.


    According to Kate Greenaway’s Language of Flowers the meaning of the dwarf sunflower is “adoration.” One August morning in church I noticed that someone had tucked a few sunflowers into Sunday’s arrangement. Perhaps the language of flowers is silly. I couldn’t help, however, “knowing” something I hadn’t known before. That knowledge made its appeal to this worshiper. 


    In Home Education Miss Charlotte Mason has much to say about the helpfulness of habit. Her 19th century suggestions for developing attention are appropriately fitting as they address the problem of straying attention in today’s 21st century students. Contemplating a flower was one example given for a young child. To set up a student with a lasting “idea” – that is – something to think about it – is a remedy for all ages. Let lessons (and all learning in general) be interesting.
    The young child likes to handle the objects that come his way. On page 140, Miss Mason says, “But watch him at his investigations: he flits from thing to thing with less purpose than a butterfly among the flowers, staying at nothing long enough to get the good out of it. It is the mother’s part to supplement the child’s quick observing faculty with the habit of attention. She must see to it that he does not flit from thing to thing but looks long enough to get a real acquaintance with it.”

    “Is little Margaret fixing round eyes on a daisy she has plucked? In a second, the daisy will be thrown away [for] a pebble or buttercup . . . But the mother seizes the happy moment. She makes Margaret see that the daisy is a bright yellow eye with white eyelashes round it; that all the day long it lies there in the grass and looks up at the bright sun, never blinking as Margaret would do, but keeping its eye wide open. And that is why it is called daisy, ‘day’s eye,’ because its eye is always looking at the sun, which makes the day. And what does Margaret think it does at night, when there is no sun? It does what little boys and girls do; it just shuts its eye with its white lashes tipped with pink, and goes to sleep till the sun comes again in the morning.”

 By this time the daisy has become interesting to Margaret. She looks at it with big eyes after her mother has finished speaking, and then, very likely, cuddles it up to her breast or gives it a soft little kiss. Thus the mother will invest every object in the child’s world with interest and delight.”

    Do you think Miss Mason was familiar with the language of flowers? Did she know that daisy means “innocence” and that wild daisy means “I will think of it?”


  1. I just found your blog from another one. I'm so glad i did. I have all your books and I love them. How exciting it is for me to be able to thank you "in person" for your work. I just finished Lessons at Blackberry Inn and loved it. I look forward to bouncing over here in the future and reading your blog.


  2. Tricia,
    Welcome. I am happy you found Moments with Mother Culture. Good to meet you. Thank you for sharing how fond you are of my books.

  3. Karen,
    Thank you for your helps in savoring the sweet and quiet moments of our everyday life that God has given us. I needed that 13 years ago while studying your Companion book with 5 moms every month in Sayville, NY. I know that I would not have the times that I have had with my family had I not read this book and shared it with these ladies. Thank you!
    I love Kate Greenaway dearly and was taught to love her by my own mom. And yes, I love the language of flowers! My mom was delighted that my birthday flower was the Lily of the Valley. What is your birthday flower?
    Kim Florio

  4. Kim,
    How wonderful to hear that A Charlotte Mason Companion was an influence in your life. Thank you for telling me.
    Lily of the Valley is the birth flower of May isn't it? It means "return of happiness." What a welcome sentiment.
    My birth flower is Calendula. It means "joy." It isn't listed in Kate Greenaway's "Language of Flowers."