Sunday, February 03, 2008


Personal Luxuries

February and March are said to be the two most depressing months in New York. Winter drags. The festive tension during the holidays has been exhausted. Those old pagans were smart to hook us up with multiple excuses to decorate homes with lights, but, aside from Valentine's Day, left us with few ways to cope with the very dead of winter.

Of course, spring is already starting in my hometown and I receive weekly updates from my mother on the progress of wild weeds and how she will cook them. I'm sure at some point a Fed Ex package will arrive with something tasty for me to eat.

Today I went to an excellent dim sum brunch in Flushing. I was captivated by a tall vase filled with plum blossoms in the lobby of the restaurant. They were real flowers, not plastic. And they made me happy. In Japan, plum blossoms are symbolic of winter. You can tell that a kimono is intended for winter, for example, because of its plum pattern (my mother almost didn't wear her chosen kimono to my wedding because it had a plum pattern, and mine was an Autumn wedding. I told her almost no one would notice.)

Seeing those blossoms reminded me of all the times I'd been to Japan in December, and how around the end of the month I'd start to see plum blossoms on display--just the buds. They always made me feel a little regretful; I was going to miss out on a complete story. I was going home, and elsewhere, this beautiful drama was taking place. When I was in Japan a couple of years ago in late January and early February, the blossoms had started their march across the islands, a harbinger of spring. I got to see how the story might have unfolded if I'd been there all through winter. It felt like being let in on a secret.

Can a small thing like a flower pull you through a bad day?

I'd always promised myself that one day I'd buy cut flowers every week. This seemed like a needless luxury and every year I'd come up with a reason not to indulge it. Last year, I decided to buy myself cut flowers anyway. It was really wonderful to follow the seasons and to see which plants were in bloom each month.

I've slacked off lately, but the blossoms in the restaurant today reminded me of the importance of small luxuries during dark days. Next Saturday I'll visit my favorite wholesaler and add some color to the kitchen.

I love plum blossoms :)
I love them too, Heather. I know that cherry blossoms are supposed to be the "thing," and while I love cherry blossoms, I think I love plum blossoms even more. They are so varied and so robust and I love all the angles the branches make.
That's an inspiring idea. I think it would be sad to watch them die though. I was thinking about getting a plant or two for my apartment. Any suggestions?
Ah, yes, it is sad when flowers die. It's sad when plants die too, though. I always take that a little harder. And since I do tend to travel, and there is no one to look after the plants when I do, I try to stick to cut flowers.

There are easy to care for plants, though. The spider plant is simple. And certain ferns are nice to have. My mother swears orchids are easier than you think. I'd go to a florist and ask for a recommendation.
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