Friday, November 27, 2009

A Rose Ritual, a Year and a Day

Last weekend was the anniversary of my mother's birthday. Just over a year ago, I undertook a ritual of remembrance, for a year and a day, for my parents. I bought some yellow roses for my mother's birthday, then red roses for my father's. I also bought roses on the anniversaries of their deaths. I've spent a year and a day on this private, personal, invented ritual, not knowing where it would lead. After each group of roses dried out, I added them to a glass bowl kept on my mantlepiece, next to the tall vases of dried roses from my parents' fiftieth wedding anniversary, and a rose each I had kept from their funeral bouquets.

Now I've completed the year and a day, and feel complete with the ritual. I don't need to extend it, or repeat it. It has served its purposes. I may celebrate my parents' lives by remembering them on their anniversaries, and it no longer needs to be in this ritual form. I now release all forms and contents of these rituals. It is accomplished.

To complete the ritual, I did something a little different, to both end the cycle, and to open it out into infinite future time. Trusting my intuition, I went to the florist on the day they were having a sale, and so I purchased a full dozen roses, now opening broadly in two vases on my table. Today is the first sunny day we've had in a week, so the rose blooms have been subdued in the gray daylight. Today, they're exploding with color and scent, already beginning to fade a little. For these dozen roses, I bought even numbers of yellow, red, and white roses. I will eventually dry them, and add them to the bowl on my mantle above the fireplace.

And I also bought myself a more enduring plant: something to sustain the life-brining aspects of having living things in one's home. I'd been thinking that my home needed some indoor greenery, as well as the garden surrounding. My home especially needed a living plant to nurture me through the cold white months of winter. So I brought home a christmas cactus, already in bloom. My parents used to have a christmas cactus in their home, which I had to give to a friend during the moving-out process, as I was too overwhelmed at that time to deal with houseplants on top of everything else. That cactus had bloomed on Christmas Day at least three times in my memory, over the dozen and more years it resided in my parents' living room. This is the first indoor plant I've bought for my new home. It's low-maintenance, which is just what I need, and brings green and color into my rooms. I look forward to spending time together, and sharing our breath.

To complete the ritual of a year and a day, which I have been writing about as it proceeded, here is the complete series in chronological order:

Yellow Roses

Yellow Roses 2

Yellow Roses 3

A Rose Ramble, a Rose Rent

Red Roses

Red Roses 2

In the Garden

Red Roses 3

Red Roses 4: Shadows and Light

My Father's Roses

A Rose Ritual, A Year and a Day

Rose Ritual: Completion

In the Garden of Memory

I'm grateful for this project, this ritual, this process, and grateful to its completion. I will no doubt post once or twice more in this series, as the roses dry out and I add them to the bowl.

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Blogger John Ettorre said...

Good for you, Art, and I love the photos. This post caused me to remember a book I've always sort of wanted to read, "Kaddish" by Leon Weiseltier. Do you know it? It's about the Jewish custom of grieving for a loved one (in this case, his father) for a year. The few passages and excerpts I've read are quite moving.

10:36 AM  
Blogger Art Durkee said...


I haven't read Weisltier's book, I'll try to find it. I am familiar with the Kaddish prayer and ritual, and Allen Ginsberg's poem "Kaddish" is one of the great long poems of the 20th C.

8:22 PM  
Blogger John Ettorre said...

Interesting. I hadn't heard of that poem, but now I'll be sure to look it up.

2:56 PM  
Blogger Art Durkee said...

A link to: Ginsberg's Kaddish, part 1, at

5:00 PM  

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