Many years ago at a musical holiday party, I saw a tin container (housing tasty cookies) with this charming illustration by Mary Engelbreit that said: “Memory is the power to collect roses in winter” (anonymous).
This image and thought has stayed in my memory ever since. At that time, I was less in love with the winter season. It was often stressful getting to work with fresh snow and ice on the roads, reinforced (rarely) by towing requirements. Layering up for warmth makes me feel like a snowball or a fattened Thanksgiving turkey. During my childhood in upstate New York, my father vowed that each Nor’easter would be our last! It was not until I finished my internal medicine residency that my parents finally (and happily) relocated to Florida. Despite living my entire life in New England, I only now find myself thoroughly enjoying the winter season.
I am keenly interested in the experience of memory.
Though I grow few roses, the idea of collecting them, or any flower, in the winter season – in one’s memory – seems especially meaningful and useful. I recall picking violets, daisies, and dandelions as a child. My parents viewed these collections with great admiration and encouragement. Today, I present scissors to each child who visits my garden, so they can create a bouquet and memories of their own. I also love sharing in their enthusiasm and excitement, and discovering what is interesting to their eyes. Gardens are perfect places to create and reinforce the memories that sustain us.
Memories are intimately connected to our emotions. For me, plants and flowers are associated with joy. As a young summer camper, I recall searching for (and occasionally coming upon) lady’s slippers in the woods surrounding a local lake. I knew little of their horticultural requirements and likely looked for them at the wrong time in unlikely places. To this day, finding a lady’s slipper blooming in the woods brings me great satisfaction, superimposed on a half century (+) of memories. I love that I live in an area where lady’s slippers grow, and where my neighbors often post their photos sharing their excitement with this exquisite orchid.
For many, memories of flowers, and roses in particular, are strongly associated with feelings of love. My garden roses often fall short of my ideal, at least partially due to our Zone Four climate. I grow a few hardy rosa rugosas despite their aggressive and hostile thorns. I admire their genetics that allow this rose to survive minus 30 degrees. I like the simplicity of its flower and its enchanting fragrance. I enjoy watching the chipmunks feast on the rose-colored hips (rather than my tulip bulbs) and the hummingbirds that perch in its branches when sated by the nearby bee balm.
I was lucky to be visiting England in June 1996, when Mottisfont, the national garden of historic roses, was in peak bloom. I cannot describe the ecstasy I experienced while walking through this garden overflowing with perfect roses (no beetles or diseased/insect-chewed leaves) of every color at all levels: from low-growing varieties at one’s feet, to roses carried high into the sky clinging to pillars and chains made of rope. I cherish my little teacup (now missing its saucer) purchased there, as a reminder of my quintessential garden experience.
Many years ago while doing a 4 a.m. house call in upstate New York, my patient, Helene, had placed the most perfect “spray” of tiny pale pink roses (from her exquisite garden) on her dying husband’s chest. It brought tears to my eyes then, and still does to this day. Every time I see similar roses in a garden or flower market, I think of her and the loving way she treated her husband.
I fondly recall the first dozen roses I ever received, given to me by Dr. Jim Sise, a wonderful colleague, to celebrate a special musical event in which I was participating. I also remember the roses Greg gave me on our wedding day. Roses and love are a match made in heaven.
Piano and Photo Slide Show
Today’s musical piece is Chopin’s Etude Op. 10 No. 3, composed in 1832. It is said that Chopin felt this was his most beautiful melody (I think he has many). While hearing his student (and copyist) play this etude, he apparently threw his hands up in the air and spoke of his country and family in Poland, from which he was exiled due to political turmoil. His music often speaks to the memories of his homeland.
I hope that the musical selection and photographs rekindle some of your cherished memories, bringing warmth and meaning to this winter season.