A Billion Little Beauties
A mini-tutorial on micro-bouquets and finding not-so-obvious beauty
I wish I could explain the smell of these lilacs sitting on the table beside me, and what they do for my insides. It is as if every June of my adolescence is summed up in these blossoms.
Driving to Houlton Farms Dairy for a dinner of peanut butter cup ice cream. Hanging my feet out of Ethan’s ‘91 Dodge Dakota and swatting all the black flies that swirled around our heads. Heaping piles of purple blooms in my mother’s blue vase at the center of the kitchen table, a house fly buzzing incessantly against a window somewhere. End-of-the-school year excitement. The first bike rides down Heartbreak Hill, and the sweaty dusty labor of walking my bike back to the top.
I quite literally bury my face in them, holding these many beautiful things inside my lungs before I exhale again, coming back to the present.
Of course, now that I’m a southerner, the lilacs come earlier. It’s only mid-May and yet, here they are, coming out in full force all around town. I spot them everywhere I go; our own lilac bushes are lackluster at best, and I’m not too proud to say that I am constantly scoping out abandoned lots and wondering how likely it is that I’ll get arrested for poaching their flowers.
What can I say? I have a need.
Lately, I’ve been having thousands of ideas and questions swirling in my mind around the topic of beauty. Not our beauty, per se (though, as a pregnant lady who doesn’t seem to fit into any of my pants anymore, I have some thoughts on this too—maybe for a later post?). No—I’m talking more of the essence of beauty all around us, and whether or not it is truly essential for our wellbeing.
What do we do when it’s terribly hard to find? Can we live without it? Are some things inherently more beautiful than others? What makes something beautiful, anyway? What unique roles does beauty play in our ability to thrive? If beauty is finite, is it worth the investment?
[P.s. Paid subscribers? I have something more for you at the end of this post, involving bookish updates and an invitation for feedback on the topic of beauty. Hang tight!]
I haven’t got the answers to all these questions. . . yet. But what I do know is that I, for one, will wither and die without beauty. Maybe my physical body will keep on moving, but the essential pieces of my mind and spirit quickly become a sad little wasteland when they’re deprived of whimsy. I cannot create. I cannot love. I cannot express myself. I can only feel utterly exhausted and depleted by the harsh realities of life.
I felt like I was pushing back the darkness this week as our family welcomed another stomach bug into the mix. I’m not talking a sweet little 24-hour deal, either. I’m talking 3 full days of down and out sickness, staggered across every family member to last an entire week. I’m talking so much laundry, I think our washing machine is losing steam. I’m talking having to watch every episode of Daniel Tiger available on PBS Kids, times three. And while I know that in the grand scheme of things that only a week of sickness for our family was a blessing, it was enough to remind me that in times of illness, it can be incredibly hard to find the beauty.
This morning, both kids went back to daycare (praise hands). I got home and looked around, feeling like I was emerging from some twilight zone funk. I didn’t know what to do with my depleted little self. I needed to write—it’s been a solid week since I’ve sat here and used my brain—but I wasn’t feeling inspired at all.
So I did the thing that always, 100% of the time cheers me up: I grabbed my basket and scissors, and I went out foraging in the yard for flowers.
This time of year, a quick scan across our property would lead you to believe that there isn’t much happening yet in the way of blossoms. Our peonies look promising, but it will be weeks before they open. The zinnias are just now pushing their heads from the soil, and it will be who-knows-how-long before the lavender flowers and coneflowers emerge and the asiatic lilies make their stunning debut. And I’ve already told you about our scraggly lilac bushes.
But a closer look reveals a whole microcosm of a billion little beauties to be had. Many of them might be considered weeds—I don’t know their names and I don’t really care. What I do know is that their miniature blossoms are bursting with color and intricacy and, if I wasn’t looking, I’d probably stomp on them on my way to watering the ‘real flowers.’
If you, too, are waiting for your big, show-stopping blossoms, I encourage you to come along with me and begin the delightful practice of scouring your yard for tiny, beautiful things. You might be surprised to find something where you thought there was nothing.
How to Make a Micro-Bouquet
Gather scissors and a basket or bag to collect your treasures in. Channel your inner toddler (they find treasure everywhere).
Step outside and get curious. Look for blossoms sprouting in the grass, at the edge of the woods, or from trees—even if they aren’t ‘real’ flowers. Also look for greenery: a hosta leaf, a succulent sprawled across the rocks, a fern or branch with unique leaves. If you have some perennial or annual flowers that ARE blossoming, it’s always helpful to pick one or two of those for a focal point.
Bring your treasures inside and spread them out. If many of your clippings have short stems (mine often do, because they are typically low-to-the-ground, creeping varieties) choose a short mason jar or other container to display them. Be sure that you fill the water right to the top so that all the stems can reach.
Note: I love collecting sauce jars, jam jars, and any other glass jars, for that matter, so that I can make micro-bouquets of all shapes and sizes, and then give them away to people. This way, they don’t feel the need to return your ‘vase’ after the bouquet fades.
Start with your biggest blooms and leaves. Tuck them into the jar/vase. I recommend blooms in the front, with larger leaves and greenery in the back to help showcase the blossoms.
Then, add your medium-sized greenery. Tuck it in at the edges to frame the bouquet.
Finally, begin tucking in your tiniest blooms. A pop of color here, a fun shape there. There’s no science to this—it’s all art and creativity and fun. Arrange your bouquet however you like it: symmetrical or sprawling, tight or droopy. It’s all good.
Put your bouquet somewhere in your house where you can enjoy it’s tiny beauty. Think the bathroom counter, the kitchen windowsill, or your bedside table. Or, better yet, surprise someone with it today, and make another one tomorrow.
Obviously, these micro-bouquets are a metaphor: There is overlooked beauty all around us. When it’s hard to find, it doesn’t mean that it isn’t there. It just means that we may have to get close to the ground, to snoop around, and to help bring it into the light.
I want to see your micro-bouquets! Post pictures in the comments below, or tag me in a picture of it @deidressecondcup on Instragram.
Okay, subscribers: Here’s a little update. I’m currently reducing the *paid* projects that I’m taking on in order to pull together a book proposal, which is a very large document (and undertaking) indeed. If you are a paid subscriber, you’re helping me to be able to say ‘no’ to certain projects so that I can say ‘yes’ to pouring all of my time and creative energy into this project—a book that I pray I can present to you someday soon, with a smile and a huge ‘thank-you’ for believing in what I’m writing here and for showing up, week after week, to share your own wisdom and friendship and offerings of encouragement.
While I can’t make any big or showy promises, I can promise that I am incredibly thankful for you, that I’ll do what’s in my power to honor you and give you goodies whenever possible, and to include you on any new developments, updates, or sneak peeks before anyone else in this world.
If you’d like to explore the option of supporting my work by becoming a paid subscriber, you can click the button below.
Okay, enough of that. If you’re already a paid subscriber, or just became one, here’s the update I alluded to above:
Keep reading with a 7-day free trial
Subscribe to The Second Cup to keep reading this post and get 7 days of free access to the full post archives.