How To Look Like A Resplendent (And Very Very Wilted) Summer Flower

I approve of anything that demands respect for its space by the deployment of a violently vivid shade of pink.

July in Tennessee is a sauna with no exit, a long month of blistering sun and pressing humidity.

Everything sweats.

Sleep is fragmented by the desultory crackle of fireworks and panic of dogs; relief from the heat arrives in the form of violent thunderstorms (which also frighten the dogs). Indoors is artificially chilled, but stifling after a week or so.

Every July is taxing, but 2017 weighs especially heavy on the psyche.

Each bit of breaking news concerning our political “leaders” is rife with fresh indignity. Dread is unrelenting. The heat, so unpleasant in the present, burns with portent of a future wrought from past and current negligence.

I’m fascinated with the flowers of July. Having bloomed in late June, most of the blossoms in my garden are now wilting into a state of luxuriant decay, sopping with rain that never quite dries in the sweltering air. They’re bright, beautiful, and just the tiniest bit repulsive; they’re alien and tentaculoid.

Knockout roses are popular in my neighborhood, surrounding mailbox posts like the impossibly thorny briar Maleficent set in place to surround Sleeping Beauty. Above their vicious stems, they bloom in a bright magenta that dazzles the eye, a too-saturated pink that confuses a cell phone camera lens.

I don’t have any roses in my own garden and most often see them while driving—aggressive, blurred bursts of color set against green shrubbery. I’m fond of these flowers throughout each stage of their blooming cycle. They seem to me so defiant, a warding rather than welcoming type of blossom, and I as a matter approve of anything that demands respect for its space by the deployment of a violently vivid shade of pink.

These flowers are defiant, a warding rather than welcoming type of blossom.

To imitate knockout roses via makeup, I initially intended to focus purely on the color and apply a fairly traditional look to eyes and lips, rendered in hot pink, but once I got some pigment on a brush and started dabbing it on my eyelids I just…didn’t stop. Pink. Pink. More pink. Roundish blotches of pink until I made something potentially lovely appear rather ghoulish; then it felt right. I globbed eye gloss on top haphazardly to give the blobs of color texture—“shiny” and “glowy” can read quite similarly in the right light.

Urban Decay eyeshadow in “Savage” is my preferred shade of cosmetic pink, paired with NYX Cosmic Metals Lip Cream in “Fuschia Fusion.” To recreate the look less alarmingly, I’d apply a bit more sparingly. I also learned in creating this face that eye gloss is apt to cause the shadow it covers to stain skin: plan accordingly.

This face is exactly how I feel about the month of July:

Day lilies come in an enormous variety of colors, but those in bloom in my yard in July are all bright yellow. My day lilies stem back to my paternal grandmother, who held a passion for the flower and cultivated them wherever she lived throughout her adult life. Split up once they grew too large, their progenitors traveled to live for years in my parents’ garden, and then in turn, to mine.

Day lilies are hardy flowers. I enjoy watching them bloom strong and bright in June, but in July I prefer to see them wet and wrung-out looking, petals delicate and translucent from water in spite of their structural sturdiness.

Yellow, being the color of my flowers, is therefore the color I put on my eyelids — a Hot Topic brand eyeshadow, “Blackheart Beauty.” I used an iMagic flash palette from eBay to paint asymmetrical approximations of day lily petals on the outer edge of each eye, then applied fake lashes to my bottom lids because…why not? The yellow shadow I applied wet to my eyelids came back into play as a dry dusting of “pollen” across my nose, cheeks, and lips. (If I planned to turn this into a more wearable look, I’d probably wear a light application of the “pollen” with more natural-appearing eye makeup.)

Then, drawing inspiration from the wet day lilies I love, I splashed water all over myself before preserving an image of the makeup for posterity. It was cold, which felt great in this weather.

While day lilies are associated with my late grandmother, tiger lilies belong to my husband’s great-grandmother, who loved and propagated them from youth until the time of her death. The tiger lilies in our yard are transplants from her garden, endowing our little plot of blooms with loveliness from both her and my own grandmother’s persistent agrarian efforts. I wish they could have met.

The tiger lilies in our yard are transplants from my husband’s great-grandmother. I wish they could have met.

Tiger lilies are really weird flowers. They grow incredibly tall — I have to look up at some of them — with spiky green leaves projecting all over and around their long stems. The flowers themselves hang downward, bowing their heads in respect to the blaze of the midsummer sun, and their freckled petals curl back away from their purple-tipped pistil and stamens.

I think they look more properly like sea creatures than something that blooms on a plant in the summertime. Tiger lily pollen startled me the first time I brushed against it: it’s bright red, and difficult to wash off without soap.

A dark brown smokey eye blended out with Wet N Wild orange shadow formed the foundation of the tiger lily look, then I used the orange powder as blush all over my cheekbones and jawline. The brown shadow doubled as contour. I used a Kat Von D eyeliner to sloppily draw on the tiger lily spots; bright orange lipstick was an obvious choice, with a bit of warm purple in the center. Red “pollen” sprinkled on my chest completed the look.

Full disclosure: I might turn to the iMagic palette and a round dotting tool instead were I to recreate this face in future.

July is a hot month, a harbinger of days to come as our planet grows hotter still. I worry for the future of autumn and the balance of winter. I want my friends’ children, in their adult lives, to know the experience of fresh spring blossoms before they fall into the decadent collapse of July warmth. I would dearly love to watch my planet grow and thrive through human ingenuity, rather than suffer from my species’ short-sighted and selfish enterprise.

Sometimes I wonder what is the point, in these times, of applying powder and paint to my face, of spending hours wrangling words to discuss my aesthetic appreciations. But then—again and again—in so doing, I find myself reminded of the sustaining power of visual loveliness. The sight of bright flowers, the act of decorating my skin, each is an inoculation against depression and despair, even in the face of unfathomable systemic ugliness.

Once I had a brief Twitterversation with Alyssa Harad, author and anchor of Sundays’ #FlowerReport hashtag, about looking at flowers in our frightening world. “There will always be beauty,” she said (or something very like it), “no matter how bad things get.” I found that sentiment comforting, and also inspiring.

There is value in documenting visually arresting, transient phenomena, and a true beauty in working to preserve splendor for those who don’t yet exist to see it with their own eyes. Like my grandmothers, whose gardening efforts still fill my seasons with blooms even after their departures from this earth, I want to leave loveliness in my wake for the benefit of those who will follow.

July is hot, but our planet doesn’t have to be. Let’s take action to course-correct the damage we’ve inherited before it’s too late.

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