The Baseline
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The Baseline

Why are Flowers Sentimental?

The other day, I noticed a young boy, who must have been in his first years of elementary school, pick flowers out of the ground for his mother. Her face lit up with the simple notion of receiving a little bundle of flowers. These natural sentiments have constantly represented a feeling of delicate life, admiration, or a touch of vibrancy within an environment. This is whether they are weaved throughout a neighborhood, or freshly-picked for a loved one. Fresh flowers being gifted is truly a sentimental representation world-wide. In Greece, for example, they were associated with the gods.

In today’s society, The Classroom states in the article, “The History of Giving Flowers” that “[…] it might have once seemed inappropriate for a woman to give flowers to a man. Today it no longer registers as out of the ordinary.”

Yet, why can’t I bring my mother home a plastic sunflower, and culturally, it won’t mean as much as real flowers? Artificial blooms last longer, so why is it considered less meaningful? To go deeper within the subject, why are fresh flowers seen as a cherished sentiment? What do they truly mean to the majority?

Archibald Flowers is a flower shop in Rancho Cucamonga that has been on the corner of Archibald Avenue for about 40 years. I gave the shop a visit, only to open the doors to the aroma of fresh flowers and plants. The air was cleaner inside the shop than it felt outside in 75-degree weather, and greenery and vibrant flowers covered the shop from wall to wall. Florist Sandra introduced herself to me, and I asked her a few questions about the shop. She was warm and welcoming. After working at Archibald Flowers as a first job, then leaving to get married and have children, she returned out of the pure pleasure of working for the company. As of 2020, Sandra has been working at the flower shop for two years straight.

As we conversed about why customers come consistently to buy flowers, she states, “[…] They’re beautiful arrangements. […] For the flowers being less inexpensive than before, it’s a living thing that’s special and brings people joy.”

The prices of flowers are more expensive due to the risk factors in companies transporting the goods. Some flowers come from as far as Columbia, the Netherlands, Ecuador, Kenya, and Ethiopia. As time progresses, the price is continuously raised for these delicate flowers.

For this being a living plant within a vase, decorated specially by florists that know the compliments from flower to flower, and color to color, there is exceptional care that goes into each bouquet no matter the occasion. Rather than giving a fake bouquet that could be purchased at Michaels or The Dollar Store, customers are rewarded with professional florists’ taste that varies from each set of flowers. The fact that the soft petals are so real and delicate gives a humanistic feel to them. Yet, on the contrary, knowing that it will one day cease to be vibrant and fresh any longer.

Sandra continues, “I do get frequent customers, mostly older men, that have been coming around for years to get their wives a rose on the weekends or before starting the week.”

I couldn’t help the idea of a majority of older men buying flowers consistently, compared to younger men. It is more of a common gesture with older couples to buy flowers, compared to younger men — outside of it being an impressive first date or Valentine’s Day.

After asking the owner of Archibald Flowers Lori Novak what her most resonating experience has been while owning the company, she pulls a hand-written letter from the top of her computer desk. She explains to me that normally during the holidays, the company sends the extra arrangements and plants to retirement homes at no charge after closing.

Novak says, “[…] A lot of the times the people that are being sent there are probably not going to be there for very long […] so that’s why we do it.”

An older woman from the retirement home sent an addressed letter personally to Novak in order to say thank you for the stationery and flowers. It was on a larger index card folded in two with shaky, but legible, handwriting and a sad face when noting that there aren’t any more stationery stores.

Lori Novak continued, “The fact that we sent the flowers and she got one- the fact that she took the time to write me a note, […] put a stamp on it because stamps are expensive nowadays […] 55 cents!”

She now saves extra stationery cards to send to this specific retirement home. This experience notions the appreciation of the elderly woman who sent the note, even though it was as simple as extra flowers from a bouquet shop. Lori appreciated this and had her own type of gratification for sending the flowers and stationery out to begin with.

From the limiting notion of time and even stress, mankind tends to appreciate the simplicity of what flowers offer.

Philosophers and Poets Jason Silva and Alain de Botton speak on the matter in podcast “Flow Sessions.” With age comes a quality of emotion and understanding of simple concepts and actions from the stress that people endure from day to day.

Alain de Botton describes a moment of coming home to his five-year-old son after a hard day of work in a competitive atmosphere. He read a children’s novel about a penguin looking for its mother in Antarctica, yet, Botton was the one that hid his tears from his son only a few pages into the story.

Botton shares, “[…] the emotions on the page were describing simple, yet clear deliberations of loyalty and tenderness and kindness — all these things that an adult life are under such stress in such short supply.”

This resonated more with Alain de Botton being a five-year-old’s father because of his experiences through life, noticing that it is a stressful place at times. The older a person grows, the more responsibilities are developed; with this, one tends to appreciate the little beauties of the lessons such as loyalty, tenderness, and kindness. It is easier to appreciate the little gestures of buying a bouquet of flowers, and on the other end, receiving them. A sense of this comes from the overall deterioration of life itself.

The human condition is described to be, in the essay-filled book titled, The Denial of Death by Ernest Becker, “gods with anuses.”

As humanity, character is built up in the idea that we are gods who create innovatively with emotion and passion. Yet, on the opposing end, all living beings deteriorate and dissolve into meaninglessness, becoming only a faded memory of once was.

This is a melancholic idea. However, it gives value to what life entails at the moment. This is why flowers have so much sentiment. With the understanding of something that will once die, and still being able to give it life through our own meaning; the fact that it is temporary, and it must be cherished right now more than ever.

Becker states, “Man cannot endure his own littleness unless he can translate it into meaningfulness on the largest possible level.”

Flowers are a symbol for life itself; the delicate nature, which does not last forever. Opposing from normal trees and plant-life, flowers hold vibrancy with delicate petals, and each type of flower has its own individual higher meaning than a simple object.

From culture to culture around the world, people create meaning out of these flowers in order to share that there is some sort of mutual care and compassion with one another; in order to break any mundane conformities of everyday living. Streets showcase flowers such as lantanas for a pop of color contrasting from the cemented sidewalks that many become immune to. Something as simple as this ties the idea of life outside of our own, as a reminder that one day it will not be there any longer.

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