My 3 year old daughter is a flower freak just like her mother. I had to hide the oxalis in March when it burst into bloom because she kept nagging me for one of its nymph-like white flowers. No, two. Two, she'd say. I would find her crawling across the kitchen table to grab a fistful in the baywindow. Later they lay limp and dying on the rug in the living room, forgotten. In the mornings in May, dried dandelions in her bed. Now that it's July, she nearly hyperventilates every time we go for a walk. I see her crouching in the grass, hastily grabbing at each small bloom. She walks around with fistfuls of grass, weeds, roots clinging to dirt--byproducts that come with the beauty she covets.
When it comes to picking the perennials in my garden, I intervene. Why can't you just admire (love, I say, she understands love) them from afar? If you pick them, they will die sooner. She doesn't care. She has no comprehension of death or the concept of time. She wants to own the beauty of the flowers and that's that.
I can relate. I want to own beauty too in all of its forms--color, grace, song, poetry, laughter. Beauty (a bouquet, a painting, a Neruda poem) often mimics passion and depicts a heightened state of being. Our lives are filled with drudgery--bills, chores, errands, the to-do; glancing at a bouquet reminds us of our more passionate selves, a peak state when it's easier to be wholly alive and engaged. It's the child part of us that wants to cling to it, though, possess it like a secret. A mature mind knows to appreciate beauty where it stands and let it go when it fades.
There are some that believe the fading part is just as important as the ecstasy part. I think of the Buddhist monks building their sand mandalas, revel at the painstakingly placed particles and complicated patterns. When the toil is over, the monks destroy the mandala in the blink of an eye by sweeping the sand. It's a practice, to endure the end of beauty. Later, the monks transport the sand of the mandala to a river where it is poured into the water and flows out to the world, a blessing.
Could you take a knife to a Botticelli? I doubt I could. But watching the monks pour the sand into the river in a sacred ritual made sense to me. It had intention, meaning, a higher meaning. I hope someday I'm that mature.