"The cloning of humans is on most of the lists of things to worry about from Science, along with behaviour control, genetic engineering, transplanted heads, computer poetry and the unrestrained growth of plastic flowers."
Lewis Thomas (1913 - 1993)
I refuse to include a picture of plastic flowers with this post. Use your imagination – I know we’ve all seen them marooned in plastic flower pots outside window panes dreary with rain. In the interests of full disclosure, I do admit that I have a box of silk flowers and I put spare seasonally-appropriate vases of flowers about the inside of my house. It’s my practice in ikebana, and it provides me with something to dust. So, shut up about silk flowers. This is about plastic flowers placed outside, especially in winter. They look as out of place as a bowlegged old man in shorts on the boardwalk amid beautiful young people celebrating spring break: their pale knobby knees covered with way more hair than we all would like to admit.
Plastic flowers are in a league of their own. They look tacky when they’re new, and adding insult to this injury, are denied the dignified patina of age. Plastic flowers, no matter where on the rainbow they begin, all fade to a blotchy milky opaqueness that defies any aesthetic pretensions they might cling to.
Spiders don’t seem to mind that they’re not real, happily making webs between the flower petals and stems, thus collecting more dust and debris to insult the poor flowers. The too-bright pinks and the garish greens and trashy reds shout their imperfections. The lilies of the field may not sow or reap or whatever, but they manage to retain more dignity, even in decline and death, than immortal plastic flowers.
Then why do so many people put plastic flowers in flower pots and decorate their yards, their gates, their doorways? Better to pick some dried crepe myrtle blooms, or sumac clusters and arrange them casually in a jar. Their spare architecture and uniform but natural brown give them a spare dignity that the pot of poor fading red pelargonium flowers can only dream of.
I had my eyebrows trimmed yesterday by an Indian lady using a long length of regular sewing thread, twisted between her fingers and pulled by her teeth to trim and shape them. An amazing experience. But now, although I look tidy, I also look somewhat surprised.
So, therein lies the lesson of the fading plastic flowers. I might be able to try to stay young and fresh by resorting to increasingly desperate measures. It’s probably better to permit myself to age and live out my assigned seasons, clinging to some semblance of dignity instead of having so many face lifts that I can barely blink my eyes. It’s better to look like a stand of dry weeds than a pot of once-garish plastic daisies, managing only to look despondent and sad as they fade in the harsh winter sun.