Distressed beauty

Flowers and trees

Northport, Alabama

I’ve always found beauty in decay. So fragile, so charged with memory, so filled with life in all its desperate, keening finality. Nothing holds this achingly proud sadness more poignantly than flower petals.

Watch them on a summer’s day, dancing merrily in the breeze, sunlight coating the delicate hairs along their stems. Lie on your back and drink in the eye-popping beauty of orange or red set against a pure blue sky.

It seems a shame to pluck them from the earth, and yet — you must. Must hold them longer. Must bring them indoors to give life to stuffy rooms filled with things you’d rather not be doing in a place you’d rather not be, catching your eye at odd moments of the day, bidding you put away the boring document, teasing you with the lure of their outdoor world which still clings.

Even once their petals curl, they hold their color fast, their delicate scent taking on the musky allure of a darker mystery. You can separate them from their stems, crush their dry dust in your hands, but you’ll never erase the last streaking hues. A white rose will fade to yellow, but never to gray. A red rose will fade to brown, but never to yellow. And though you caress their brittle velvet, you’ll never know the totality of what they’ve seen — the rush of an August storm’s fury, the soft kiss of morning dew, a butterfly pausing to rest, a fiery sunset subsiding to glowing embers.

Life is not in the living, the breathing. Life is not an amalgamation of cells multiplying and dividing. And death is not in the choking, the dying, the screaming harrows or quiet gasps. Life is in the fight to hang on to every trace of color, every ounce of pride until the end, for this is where beauty lies. And where beauty lies, death holds no sway.

Music: Lord Have Mercy on Me by Outrageous Cherry (lyrics)

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