I plucked a tiny purple flower while walking with my dog today, but as we continued down the street under the Texas sun, the flower began to wilt, losing its fragile star shape.
I felt bad, because I had picked this flower for its beauty, and now it was dead.
Little matter that flowers only live a week maybe two in the spring around here, and this flower was already nearing its time.
But I didn’t know what to do with this thing, the flower that I plucked because it was pretty and thought maybe, if it doesn’t get crushed while I manage the dog’s leash in one hand and indelicately grip its stem between thumb and forefinger of my other, I could press it in a book when I get home.
Anyway, by now this flower is essentially dead and certainly not worthy of a book pressing. But what to do with it? How can I throw it in a trashcan like a crushed can? This flower was beautiful.
Suddenly I laughed at myself; a lot of thinking over a flower. Well, maybe only a split second, but funny that I pondered it. Or was it human instinct. Afterall, when did the flower lose its essence? When did it stop being something that I treasured?
When the human body stops functioning, we still honor the corpse. We observe gray flesh but see a person we knew, shared time with, maybe loved, and probably will miss, but mostly we follow procedure.
We preserve the body with chemicals, we put the body in a wooden box, we view the body in a quiet room, we put the body in a special car, we drive the body to a garden, we slowly lower the body into the ground, and we mark the earth above the body, so that it will be remembered forever.
But how is a corpse different from this dead flower? When does a person lose its essence?
This shell holds an imperfect shape, a ghostly reminder of something beautiful. But I am still alive, and I remember that beauty. No amount of care will give this flower back its value; it’s just another loose association of elements, like the ash on a cigarette, bound to be picked up in the wind or stuck to the bottom of a shoe.
I let the flower fall out of my left hand as I walked, feeling a momentary pang as I watched it land in the grass next to the sidewalk.
Then I saw a piece of broken glass and the plastic lid from a fast food soda cup.
Then I saw another small purple flower; it is spring afterall. I picked it, and hurried home to put it in a glass of water.