I headed to the Safeway late last night, hoping for a peaceful and quiet trip. I dislike crowded stores. But I forgot it was the Saturday before Thanksgiving. In order to wait out a crowd around the yams, I wandered into the floral department.
One hour and 20 items later I headed home, excited to put my burgundy daisies in a vase. Something to brighten our perpetually gray days. As I lovingly trimmed the stems and plucked all the yellow or moldy leaves from the flowers I thought, “Oh hell, I’ve done it again!” And this is where the story gets weird. Or where I get weird.
I have an odd habit. I have bravely confessed this habit to a few souls. I am always greeted by the same look. A look that blends confusion, dismay, disgust and denial. A look that says, “That is so ridiculous, I cannot understand it, I am going to pretend you did not say that.” What is this odd habit? I am a produce martyr. And apparently a flower martyr as well.
When purchasing produce I do not hesitate to buy the spotted apples, the slightly wilted greens, the overripe plums, the ugliest yams and yes, the moldy flowers. Not only is there a lack of hesitation, I actually seem to gravitate towards them. Once these sad friends of the plant world are in my sight I feel an obligation. Who else will buy them? Surely they will be tossed out at any moment, the scourge of the dutiful produce department employee.
I have no idea how long I have been doing this. “Why (insert above-mentioned look) would you do that!?” more than one person has asked. Once I consciously became aware of this habit, I asked myself the same question. I thought it had to do with not wanting to waste. Perhaps that “Voluntary Simplicity” course got to me. Maybe I am a reincarnated soul from The Great Depression. I try very hard not to waste at home, using up all leftovers in the fridge and cutting the tops off of lotion bottles because there is a lot left inside after the pump stops working! My bag of ‘clothes to mend’ grows fatter each year, especially since I don’t really sew. Children’s clothes and toys are given to consignment or packed into storage tubs for grandchildren that I may have some day.
This simple desire to not waste is the best reason I had until last night. But as I arranged my leafless flowers into a crystal vase at 11pm, I had a thought. Is there something else, something more personal, going on here? “Who else will buy them?” That is the question that goes through my head as I stand with battered vegetable in hand. But the motive may be deeper than thrift. Maybe it is a desire to recognize the value in things ‘not perfect’. The overripe plum can be the sweetest if eaten quickly. Spotted apples healthier, having grown without pesticides. And my burgundy daisies, minus the moldy and yellow leaves, are lovely. A burst of color, stark against the naked stems. The best 'imperfect' bouquet for these gray and dreary days.
Perfect is boring. There is a bit of mystery in imperfection. You never know what you will find.