Turns out, I have a rose garden

by Lorin Michel Friday, May 25, 2012 1:27 AM

Kevin and I are big fans of the 1995 movie The American President, starring Michael Douglas and Annette Bening. It’s charming, idealistic, romantic and fun without being stupid. I suspect it has something to do with liking Aaron Sorkin, who wrote the film, and went on to also create – and pen most episodes of – The West Wing. I thought of fictional President Andrew Shepherd today as I was out in my back yard.

I’ve spoken previously about the rose bushes we have outside. Red, yellow, sterling and pink. In the past few days they’ve begun first to bud and now to bloom. I was on the patio the other day and noticed a tall red bud reaching toward the sun. I knew if would be just a matter of time before it blossomed and it has, seemingly overnight. It’s huge as roses that bloom in the backyard always seem to be. Much bigger than those that come from a florist. Don’t know if the roses are a different strain or if it has to do with when they’re cut, or if it’s simply my imagination, but either way, the red beauty along the wall in my back yard is huge and stunning. I walked over toward it and before I even got there I could smell it. Outside roses are sweeter and infinitely more fragrant than indoor roses as well. I don’t know that I ever realized that until today. Standing there, leaning into my flower, I finally understood the meaning of succulent.

As photographed by Kevin Michel

Then I noticed that one of my sterling silver roses had also opened itself up to welcome the day. The stalk of the bush wasn’t as hearty as that of the red rose, and so the stem didn’t have as much support. The rose bloom was so heavy it was dragging the entire stem toward the ground. The dusty purple petals were only inches from the grass but they weren’t yet touching. I called to Kevin to come and see what was happening right here on our little postage stamp of land. He came and brought along his trimmers.

We snipped off the sterling rose and I took it and its nice long stem into the house to put in a vase. On the same stem are two more buds waiting to open. It will be interesting to see if they do, and if they do, if they’re as big and fat and lush as the other. It may give my theory about florist-bought roses some credibility. Or not.

While I was busying myself in the kitchen with my rose, Kevin started trimming some of our other plants. I could hear the sharp snip as each stem was cleanly shortened, against its will. I have to watch him when he does this because sometimes he goes a little nuts and cuts back everything. And while I understand that it needs to be done, I like my flowers and am not quite ready to let them go. Not today.

We have this one meandering and flowering plant that we have trained up against the back wall. It snakes its way along the nearly invisible wire and then drapes itself over, hanging, blooming, reaching. It’s the most incredible shade of vibrant fuscia. The flowers are paper-thin but they’re plentiful, and in amongst the blooms are tiny white flowers that can’t be seen unless you’re up close. The flowers had become so thick and full they were encroaching on yet another rose bush, this one close to Kevin’s studio. So armed with his trimmers, he cut several flowering sprigs from the bush. I scooped up some of those as well and trooped back into the kitchen. I trimmed them up a bit more and put them in the vase with my sterling rose. It was quite the display, as pretty as anything that would come from a florist, perhaps more so because it came from our own backyard.

I walked back through the house, toward the sun, and the fuscia plant visible through the back slider still bursting with life and color out in the yard. Kevin had taken just enough away; not too much. We put another stalk from another similar plant into a water-filled wine bottle and left it out on the table. This one is coral and peach, not as vivacious but equally lovely.

That was when I remembered the scene from The American President. At the end, just before he delivers his state-of-the-union speech he’s finally able to give his girlfriend the roses he’s been trying desperately to give her for just about the entire movie. He’s able to do it because it turns out, he’s got a rose garden.

Ours may not be nearly as big and impressive as that of the White House, but for our little house, it’s perfect.

As I sit here, the fragrance from that one rose is filling the house. It’s the definition of flower power, and cause for celebration on this beautiful spring day. 

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The subject was roses

by Lorin Michel Thursday, March 8, 2012 11:34 PM

We have six rose bushes in our backyard tucked against the wall. None are in bloom right now but when they are, the backyard alights in colors of blood red, gentle pink, sterling violet and glowing yellow. They’re glorious when they bloom, filling the backyard with brilliant color that is alive and lush. Their fragrance drifts through the house on a soft breeze, light and floral and lovely.

Roses have a long history that stretches to some 35 million years ago, though the cultivation of them began much more recently, in Asia around 5000 years ago. Greek mythology tells us of the goddess of flowers, Chloris. One day while Chloris was cleaning in the forest, she found the lifeless body of a nymph and to bring the nymph back to life, Chloris turned to the goddess of love, Aphrodite, who gave the nymph beauty. Dionysus, the god of wine, added a sweet nectar, and the three graces provided charm, brightness and joy. Finally, Zephyr, the West wind, blew away the clouds so that the sun god, Apollo, could shine and make the flower bloom. The rose was born. Hindu’s have another version. In theirs, the creator of the world Brahma, and the protector of the world, Vishnu, argued over which flower was more most beautiful. Vishnu chose the rose. Thousands of years later, in the tombs of Egypt, wreaths made with flowers, roses among them, were discovered.

Roses became synonymous with excess during the Roman Empire. During the 15th century, the factions fighting to control England used it as a symbol with the white rose representing York and the red representing Lancaster. In the 17th century, roses were considered legal tender. Napoleon’s wife Josephine loved roses so much she established an extensive collection containing more than 250 rose varieties.

Until the beginning of the 19th century, all roses were pink or white. The red rose first came from China in 1800. Bright yellow roses entered the vase in 1900. Since then, the colors have come to symbolize very real emotions. Red means love, pink is thank you, yellow equals joy, orange is desire, peach is appreciation, lavender enchantment, black death; white roses are sometimes called the flower of light.

White roses from Maryann, to celebrate Maguire

Last night we ordered out again. I simply haven’t been in the mood to cook the last few days. Kevin called Fresh Brothers in Westlake for a smorgasbord of edible items mostly bad. Chicken wings, pizza with mushrooms, French fries and a salad to balance it all. He hung up; I poured a glass of wine. There was a knock at the door and we both looked at each other. It wasn’t possible that the food was here that quickly. Even if they’d managed to cook it, it’s at least a 10 minute drive from Westlake Village. As I stood in the kitchen as Kevin went to answer the door.

It was Maryann, with a dozen white roses, brought to celebrate Maguire. We all hugged and cried, then got to talking … about the dog, about her impending move, about life and death. We had a glass of wine together and Fresh Brothers eventually arrived and though we invited her to share our not-very-healthy meal, she declined. She had her own dogs to get home to. Lucky and Tessie. They needed to be walked; needed some attention paid.

I cut about an inch from the stem of each rose. I poured the packet of whatever it is into the bottom of a vase and filled it with water before placing the flowers inside. I stood and looked at them, inhaled their fragrance and embraced what they symbolized. Light, beginnings, purity and love. Perfect.

We were sad, we remain heartbroken over the loss of our beautiful Maguire. But our friends and family have made it so much easier to bear.

Oh, bear. Honey bear.

Celebrate him. Celebrate that. 

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