Tuesday, 10 June 2014


I suddenly have a craving for pink roses, I have no idea why.  Just pink ones, no other colour will do.  It's not true that I've always loved roses, it just came on suddenly this week.  They're nice enough flowers but that's all I usually feel for them.
Rosa centifolia from Les Roses (1817) (Country Garden Roses)
My grandmother did love roses and worked hard at growing them in a climate that was not really suitable for them. 
“It is the time you have wasted for your rose that makes your rose so important.”
I suppose there is a narrative in which I do love roses and always have, but it's a story someone else might tell about me, not one I would say is true of myself:  When I was a little kid, my grandmother had a cabbage rose bush. 
Unidentified pink cabbage rose (source).
I remember scooping petals up off the lawn and putting them in a shoebox.  I think I also put my grama's Siamese cat in the box and then piled rose petals on top - picture the cat hunkering down like grumpy cat.  I filled my orange plastic pumpkin from Halloween which I used as a handbag with petals and took them home, spending the long car trip up the island ruffling the petals and putting my face into the pumpkin to smell them. 
“But he who dares not grasp the thorn
Should never crave the rose.”
David Austin rose 'Spirit of Freedom' (source)
I was five or six and roses didn't grow where we lived.  It was too cold and wet.  Petunias didn't grow there either, they melted.  Not much besides fir trees and ferns grew.  Maybe that's why I love tropical plants and now suddenly roses so much - as much as it's possible to find a reason. 
“An idealist is one who, on noticing that a rose smells better than a cabbage, concludes that it makes a better soup.”

My grandmother had a huge stack of Herb Digest or something like that which I read through in her bathroom when I was in elementary school.  I read about monastery gardens and medieval herbal medicine and nuns.  I tried making rosary beads - despite not being Christian.  I was a complete heathen, never baptised or christened or confirmed or churched, but I have always liked ritual.  The burgundy and green carpets and incense and calligraphy and salaah five times a day and tasbeeh are some of the things I like about being Muslim, although they're trappings.  They're not the heart of the religion.
I chopped up rose petals and mixed them into a flour dough and rolled them into balls and painstakingly poked holes through them and laid them in the weak summer sun and turned them several times a day.  I eventually ended up with a string of crude musty-smelling brown beads.  I sometimes think about trying to do that again, now that I'm not ten years old and could produce something of better quality, if I had rose petals.
“Did you hear about the rose that grew from a crack in the concrete? 
Proving nature's laws wrong, it learned to walk without having feet.  
Funny, it seems to by keeping it's dreams; it learned to breathe fresh air.  
Long live the rose that grew from concrete when no one else even cared.”

O, how much more doth beauty beauteous seem
By that sweet ornament which truth doth give!
The rose looks fair, but fairer we it deem
For that sweet odour which doth in it live.
The canker-blooms have full as deep a dye
As the perfumed tincture of the roses,
Hang on such thorns and play as wantonly
When summer's breath their masked buds discloses:
But, for their virtue only is their show,
They live unwoo'd and unrespected fade,
Die to themselves. Sweet roses do not so;
Of their sweet deaths are sweetest odours made:
And so of you, beauteous and lovely youth,
When that shall fade, my verse distills your truth. 

 I don't even like the roses that much in person, and I wouldn't want to have to grow them, but I like the idea of them and I like looking at pictures of them.
Merchant, keep your attar of roses,
your ambers, your oud,
your myrrh and sandalwood. I need
nothing but this dust
palmed in my hand’s cup
like a coin, like a mustard seed,
like a rusted key.

I need
no more than this, this earth
that isn’t earth, but breath,
the exhalation of a living city, the song
of a flute-boned woman,
air and marrow on her lips.
 - Amal el-Mohtar, 'Song for an Ancient City.'

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