I've been doing it so wrong for longer than I'd care to admit.
"Don't cut them with scissors," the lady at the flower shop told me. "Use a knife. If you use scissors it squeezes the stem together and ends up strangling the flower. If you cut it with a knife it's cleaner and it lets the flower breathe and drink and last longer."
And I just stood there and let the knowledge and understanding soak in like a mist of fresh spring rain.
Gardeners, to me, are like bakers. They hold a special bit of magic in their hands that people not in the know just can't touch. I wish I could bake a croissant or a baguette but I really don't have the stamina or the patience. If I want fantastic bread I have a great bakery just down the street I can visit. Simple as that.
I have a beautiful garden outside my house, but I've been working with a guy who is a master landscaper and he really knows his stuff. It was (and is) and investment in my house and every year he comes and makes things nice again. It's hard to believe it to look outside today but in a month this place will be a thriving botanical feast for the eyes and nose.
But I do other things that are special to me--playing music and writing these blogs--and I like to think I know a thing or two about them. It's not just because I was drawn to the world of the musician from a very young age or the fact that my mother and father were both excellent writers, though that does help. But if someone asked me a question about what's the best way to get a gig or how to hold a reader's attention I think I may just be able to give them a useful pointer or two.
So, when the lady at the flower shop shared her little tidbit with me it really made a difference.
See, these are the kind of lessons one learns in life that doesn't just help with the situation at hand; it adds to the understanding of a greater way to be.
I have many pairs of scissors in my house. My mom sort of collected them throughout her life. I have little ones, big ones, stainless steel ones, light aluminum ones, heavy iron ones, tiny sewing scissors, alligator-like pinking shears, blue-handled, orange-handled, red-handled, black-handled, and green-handled scissors. Some are sharp and some are dull and some are somewhere in between. I may even have a pair or two of left-handed ones lying around somewhere, as my aunt was a southpaw.
Something else I have a lot of in my house is pencil holders. And in each pencil holder there sits a pair of scissors (along with pens, pencils, and a letter opener, of course). I just like to be ready for anything. If there's one thing I can't stand is to be running around my house looking for a pair of scissors when something needs cutting. It's taken almost forty years but I've finally gotten to the point where I can abstain from pulling an errant thread on my or someone else's clothes. I now cut that sucker right at the root. It hasn't been easy, but the trail of open seams and missing buttons lies behind me now and stops somewhere around the 2009 spring/summer season. I feel that having a pair of scissors in each room may extend the life of untold numbers of pockets, collars and cuffs and it is part of my recovery process. But I digress . . . .
I also have letter openers. Because if there's one thing I wish I didn't do was open mail with my fingers. No matter how good of an intention I have when I start, I end up with an envelope that is ragged and torn and just about useless except that I can put my mail back in it and add it to the others in the filing cabinet that are also poster children for haste and impatience. But I keep a letter opener in every room (and one in my car, even) because I seem to get mail on a pretty regular basis. And I don't always make it to the office with said mail and something comes over me when I get something even semi-important and if I don't have a letter opener handy guess what: I use my fingers.
So, getting back to the matter at hand. I've been preparing the flowers I put around my house wrong for longer than I'd care to admit. I buy them at the store or cut them from my garden and then I bring them over to the sink. I put lukewarm water in the vase or vases and I take the closest pair of scissors and "snip" I cut the end off at an angle and stick them in the water. But, of course, doing so is wrecking the delicate system of nutrient delivery for the flowers which end up putting on a brave face and "living" for as long as they can.
But now I have learned a better way to do this. I was taught a way to make this process cleaner and more efficient. Instead of bringing two semi-sharp blades together I now take one very sharp one and put it to the stem lying on a block of wood. I slice across from one edge through to the other rather than from each side inwards towards the center.
It's these type of changes in process that can help me live my life better. Because living a more peaceful and robust life is not about just getting things done. It's about learning from others and realizing that there are paths that are proven to lead to a better outcome. I may have a pair of scissors in every room but that doesn't mean that they should be used when there's a better tool right near the sink.
As spring approaches and the buds on the bulbs start to poke their heads up from the desolate ground I get a little bit nervous. I've always liked the winter because it makes life simpler. When it's dangerous to drive it's easy to stay home. When it's cold outside there's not much chance I'm going to want to do much manual labor in the yard. And so for years I've enjoyed the months between the falling leaves and the new flowers for those special reasons. This winter was especially rough around here. The snow was brutal, roofs collapsed, the temps were much colder than I can recall and it's seemed to drag on forever. In fact we are supposed to get another snowstorm tonight and tomorrow that's going to drop a half a foot on the ground. I would love to believe that the weathermen are all in kahoots as it is all predicted for April Fool's Day. We shall see.
But somehow the coming spring has all the makings of a great and memorable season. I'm finally at a weight that I haven't been at since high school and my original music is starting take form. Jodi has taken steps to further her career in ways that she had only dreamed of and is about to leave a world of stress behind her. Our time spent together equals no other experience either one of us has ever imagined and I still can't believe it's really happening.
And these are the days when I have to remember to not pull that string on my button.
This is the time when I need to make sure that I open that important envelope cleanly because I may need to read the posted date in a hurry next year.
And these are the moments when I have to take the stem of the flower into consideration. Because though it is separated from its roots and will surely die I have the opportunity to make its time in bloom as pleasant as can be.
And it looks at me and smiles and says "you didn't have to do that."
And I know that it's right.
I smell the petals and close my eyes.
And sure enough the winter comes again.
And I have less to do.
Or so it seems.
Thanks for reading,