By plucking her petals, you do not gather the beauty of the flower.

4 Jan

Someone says I’m pretty and I flush, embarrassed by the untruth. Someone else tells me I’m beautiful, and I wonder, is it my soul they see, inside where it counts? Or have I not seen me in so long that the concept of beauty in and about me is abandoned, a sad boat deposited in a field by a flood, its paint flaking from its moored loveliness?

I have never thought myself pretty. But have decided, in the interests of fairness, to entertain the idea this year.

It’s strange to look at myself now. I don’t know this woman in the mirror, the one who has wiry hair that spins itself around my face, curls and waves. I don’t know the curves of my chin, as I wait for it to emerge from its flaccid hiding place, as I eat less and better. I don’t know these tired eyes, more green than brown these days, my favored hazel globes, I don’t know their softness, their compassion. I don’t know this woman.

I’ve known pretty people, still know pretty people, made lovely by their strength, their struggles and the lines it leaves on them. They’re the beauty I recognize, not mine. I am jealous of their etherealness, the impression they leave on people. They are not ordinary, and are recognized as such. Doors, Seas and hearts open freely to them.

I have always wished for that-for a delicateness on the outside, a certain turn of phrase that would mark me as feminine and flowered, for I have always been staunch and tree like, steady and firm. It would be easy to be the pansy swaying in the wind than the birch facing it head on? Both strong in their structure, just demarcated by beauty?

Perhaps for once, I’d prefer soft petals to rough bark, hard to scratch and even harder to remove.

I can’t relate as the flower-when I go out, I’m always taking up space, the bigger, broader version of female, ofttimes not looked at, for who sees the trees while glancing at the beauties beneath and beside them? I feel the room I take, and don’t feel entitled to it. My branches may stretch, but they do so unwillingly, and bashful, I can hardly look myself in the eyes most days.

Someone tells me I’m beautiful and my heart soars, then crests, then sighs. It cannot be the truth, even if I try to wish it so, even if I gather the petals to me.


8 Responses to “By plucking her petals, you do not gather the beauty of the flower.”

  1. Hannah January 4, 2010 at 11:57 am #

    I love this post. I too have always wanted to be that ethereal, flower-like beauty, one of those women who move with effortless grace. Instead I’ve always felt like a puppy, moving too fast, never knowing what to do with my legs and arms, crashing around like a mad thing.

    I love that you picture yourself as a tree. I could be good with that. I think I’ll borrow it, for myself.

  2. sweetsalty kate January 4, 2010 at 1:25 pm #

    There’s a tree that’s only found out west – Arbutus trees. My favourite. They’re always leaning into the wind on rocky shorelines, and there’s no other tree like them.

    For much of the year they lose their bark – and their wood, underneath, is like rust-coloured silk. With bark their curves and twists would make them seem gnarly, but without, they *look* like strips of silk blowing in the wind.

    I miss those trees so much.

    Anyway. You might not feel flower-like. Bah. Flowers are transient. Trees are steadfast and rooted. That’s a good way to be. All you need to do is figure out what works for your bark. Honour this new beginning by taking on new rituals that make you feel silky and new, yet still strong. xo

  3. sweetsalty kate January 4, 2010 at 1:32 pm #

    Now you’ve got me all sentimental. Really – take a moment and look at these, and think about what it means to be a tree.

    Arbutus with tanagers
    Arbutus tree bark, Saltspring Island, British Columbia, Canada

    • thordora January 4, 2010 at 2:50 pm #

      oh Kate…to be that tree…also, awesome idea for new tattoo…

  4. wn January 4, 2010 at 7:33 pm #

    I also like that idea for a tattoo. Beauty is such an abstract concept…both subjective and objective, new and old, fresh and grounded, thin and lush, soft and jagged.

    When I was in my teens, I wanted to be waif thin, I wanted to flit and float around and what I wanted most was to be desired and coveted.

    When I was in my twenties, I finally figured out that beauty had to do with more than weight or hair…but I thought it was related to facades…so I tried on identities. I made efforts to be trendy, I sought out vivacious accessories, I meandered into dark looks and attempted my version of mysterious. It all failed and I never felt beautiful.

    Now than I am inching my way forward into my mid-thirties, I want beauty that comes from under the surface. I want courage, grace, elegance, wisdom and the ability to be authentic.

    I think that’s what is radiating from you….the fact that you are authentic…regardless of hair, eyes, skin or smiles….that is beautiful.

  5. Marcy January 4, 2010 at 10:27 pm #

    I almost clapped out loud to see those possessive “its”
    “its paint flaking from its moored loveliness?”

    I’m so silly.

    Yes — some trees are beautiful. And I see you as beautiful, too — inside and out. The staunchness of your stance, and even rough bark can be beautiful, and some trees even bear lovely blossoms. It doesn’t have to be trees vs. flowers.

    I felt very oafish myself around the New Year holiday — the friend we were staying with is so graceful and gracious, inside and out, and it made me more aware of my clumsiness, impulsiveness, and so on.

  6. wn January 4, 2010 at 10:36 pm #

    PS – the “hair, eyes, skin or smiles” are all beautiful too…you really are kinda pre-raphaelite in your looks…but they are secondary to me.

    PPS – Your eyes sparkled when you spoke about certain things and people….how could anyone resist that?

    PPPS – Although I do GET feeling like you take up space….I still struggle with that…although less so, with each passing year.

  7. Cassandra Dolen November 1, 2015 at 7:52 pm #

    Arbutus trees are my favorite too. Your writing is very beautiful, Although my signature isn’t visible, the painting you post is my work. Its a memory painting from where I grew up on Vancouver Island, and you are welcome to use the image. If you would credit me, I would be most grateful, as I make my living painting. All the best,..Cassandra Dolen Thankyou

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