November thrives on a hint of chill and a promise of despondency hangs in the air as warmth dies, the days grow shorter and dusk is replaced with a fading twilight. Looking out my window, I see a blue, blue world with bits of mist hanging in the horizon. Suddenly, things crop into my head. The life I’ve lived so far is probably not enough to write home about and there’s a lot more of the future to come than the past but already, there’s been so much that has come and gone and changed and morphed that it gets overwhelming at times. As burdens add up, I refuse to see my life as anything other than a poem that I’m living. Every time I feel a flow of words inside me, I become that poem. And I cannot help but express it in words.
How unnatural are words to us? When so much can be contained in a smile, a laugh, an echo or just a longing desire for someone or something that’s far away? Memories engulf us and no matter how succinct or how encrypted our expressions, they cannot replace the feelings that actually make us turn towards them.
These flowers gave rise to a surge of tangled emotions inside me. There’s something about them that’s beautiful and sad, ancient but breathtaking. There’s death in them but also life or the promise of life. There’s hope and there’s dust. They are fading but they exist. They are breathing but they are drained.
And so these flowers invite me to think: why are they there? Who put them in a cemetery that is 150 years old? Was it someone tracing their lineage as far back as they could? Or was it someone who lived far, far away and came back to visit a childhood reminiscence; a symbol of all the stories they heard from their grandparents, of all the haunts their imagination traveled through when they were children? Or did someone visit the cemetery in search of an old lover, only to find them dead and buried? Did that person cry at the thought of a missed life, a dead relationship? Did they leave the flowers their as a one-time salute to a love that refused to thrive? Or perhaps it was someone who came to the grave to apologize for all the things they didn’t do when they could have, for the sake of that build-up of regrets that life inevitably drops into our lap, the older we get? Maybe those flowers were a tribute to a life fully lived or a fond memory of an uncle who died young or a mother’s painful recollection of losing her child and wishing it was she who was dead instead.
Traces are everywhere. The dead silence of a long-forgotten, hidden corner where you shared your first kiss. That bridge where you could stand for hours with someone you loved and just stand, interlocked in silent wonder. The trees under which you share a good laugh or two with a friend but a year from now none of you will be there to miss it. Things change and places do too, we move away but we leave a trace of ourselves behind; on our most-traversed road, in a classroom or a lobby or a frequently used elevator.
It’s strange that a bouquet of dying flowers can speak so much. They can make you think about your life and the wonder contained in it. We can look at the world around us and feel divinity and we may or may not interpret it to be God but the very act of feeling awed or inspired or wonder-struck by our world is enough for us to know that what our senses understand is a lot less than what our minds see.
Perhaps those flowers were the resigned last signature of someone who was dying and wanted, for the last time, to see what it would feel like to be on this side of the world. Perhaps they were a lifetime of happiness contained in a single relic. Maybe they were somebody’s favourite flowers, now covered with cobwebs and buried under the half-death of autumn but had once bloomed in the spirit of love. Maybe they were just a simple goodbye. Or maybe, just maybe, all those flowers ever were or could be was a simple act of politeness by someone who wasn’t related to any of it, far removed by miles or thousands of years and yet moved by the painful beauty of an old graveyard. Maybe that person walked amidst the graves, thinking about all the stories that they contained but could never tell because there was nobody left to remember. Maybe that someone then felt an overpowering urge to somehow pay an ode to the transience of existence. And maybe this visitor then left those flowers there, knowing fully well that they would decay and die as surely as she would, as surely as all the people underneath these gravestones had but just the fact that they had ever existed and been there at all, was worth something. Maybe that is why it was important. Maybe that was all that needed to be felt. Maybe those flowers were there to replace all words.