I got flowers yesterday.
My boyfriend, the Engineer, knows very well that my favorite flowers are sunset colored roses. I don’t know why, exactly, I love these particular blooms so much, but they bring me a specific kind of joy. Their subtle scent, their soft, smooth petals, their paleness tinged with fire – seeing a bunch of them on my kitchen table just makes me smile.
And yet, they’ll be gone, drooping and withered, within a few days.
In the Internet frenzy recently leading up to Valentine’s Day, I saw an image of a girl with about five bouquets of a dozen red roses. The caption, emblazoned in large white print over her, asked, “Am I the only one who would rather have something useful than this?” I used to agree (even though everyone in my family and friend group says I’m impossible to shop for) that I wanted something that would last. I took a utilitarian approach to gift giving and receiving. Books I could keep for years, coffee I could use to power through the day, a gift card I could use to fund the purchase of something I needed or wanted. Other than looking pretty for a few days and maybe making for good Instagram pictures, what purpose did flowers serve?
But for the few days they survive in their vase on my kitchen table, I truly can’t help smiling every time I walk past my roses. So maybe I’m allowed to have something with no purpose beyond that of making me happy. After all, that William Morris quote doesn’t say that the things in your house must be both useful and beautiful – only that they should be one or the other. If both, so much the better. If only one of the two, well, the human spirit needs Beauty to survive as much as it does the Plain Jane Useful Things.
As for their transitory nature, their fleeting existence, the roses are perhaps all the sweeter for it. There’s something about knowing they aren’t a permanent new fixture in my house, that I won’t become accustomed to their presence and hardly notice them at all in a few months like I do with my artwork and other Useful And Beautiful Things, that makes the short time I do have them around all the more special. They make me smile precisely because they are new and beautiful and their beauty will not cease to be new to me by the time they wither.