The Latin phrase carpe diem—usually expressed in English as “seize the day” although its literal translation is “pluck the day” or “pick the day” as in gathering flowers—originates in the Odes of Horace (Book 1, No. 11):
carpe diem quam minimum credula postero
Seize the day and put no trust in the future
See all these lovely flowers? The photo was taken May 20, and already they are all gone. Which leads me to the story of why they are here.
My mother loved irises. She had a collection, so many colors and shapes, early bloomers to late. The blue and white ones here are descendants of a clump she gave me over twenty years ago, which I dug up and moved with us from state to state. I will always think of her when they bloom.
The sweet-scented purple and lavender ones came with our previous house and were the only pretty things in the yard. I spent weeks in the spring defending them from tricycles, baseballs, and games of tag.
So I was dismayed when my son announced he was digging them all up, along with the rest of my old perennials.
"Don't you remember how beautiful they are every spring?" I said.
"Yes, but for how long?" he replied. "Most of the time they're just leaves."
And so we spent a day last fall salvaging the unwanted plants and tucking them into this temporary home, a weedy, vacant plot beside the front porch. The fact that they have already taken hold and are blooming is a testament to their tenacity.
How could a child of mine so completely miss the point?
The essence of life is change. A garden grows, flowers, dies - and grows again in the next wave of bloom, the next season. The joy of it happens in the space between the coming and the going, the the bittersweet pleasure of loving all that is destined to die.
O Gather Me the Rose
- William Ernest Henley (1874)
O, gather me the rose, the rose,
While yet in flower we find it,
For summer smiles, but summer goes,
And winter waits behind it!
For with the dream foregone, foregone,
The deed forborne for ever,
The worm, regret, will canker on,
And time will turn him never.
So well it were to love, my love,
And cheat of any laughter
The death beneath us and above,
The dark before and after.
The myrtle and the rose, the rose,
The sunshine and the swallow,
The dream that comes, the wish that goes,
The memories that follow!
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