Let me begin by explaining that I am not one of those writers with a preternatural understanding of plants. All flowers essentially look the same to me. They are wonderful, and part of the regalia of Nature, yes, I understand. Yet as a consumer of poetry, I can rarely conjure the appropriate image in my mind when I read of hydrangeas, or apple-blossoms. In life, I couldn’t tell the difference between a magnolia and a marigold. High school biology was a long time ago. Flowers, plants in general, are doodads; I know that sometimes, I can eat them.
My general apathy towards horticulture has one exception: the daisy. Oh, you know that particular weed, masquerading as an innocent flower. Despite my claim of ignorance on all matters botanical, the daisy’s image is burned into my mind. Among all members of the kingdom Plantae, the daisy must be the most listless, unimaginative, and, most distressingly, underachieving.
Take a moment to reflect on the wondrous diversity in the world of flowers. There are flowers that curl into the oddest of shapes, flowers that tower upon giant stalks. There are plants that eat insects, as in: they actually move. In my town there is a meticulously tended rhododendron garden with a dreamlike, Alice in Wonderland quality to it, the way it’s swept up in colors that I’ve never known to bloom so brightly.
The Rhododendron: now that is a flower that is performing on multiple levels. Not only is it pleasing to the eye, but the rhododendron also blooms in a variety of colors, and upon closer inspection, contains interesting patterns within the color schemes. Its very name challenges those who attempt to spell or pronounce it to be the best versions of themselves. The rhododendron is a flower that delivers diversity, creativity, and innovation.
In stark contrast, the daisy has long settled into a routine of monotony. The daisy is content to languorously pop out of lawns across this country without much effort, mocking its poor cousin the dandelion for being considered a scourge. Of course, the reality is that the dandelion, offering two hallmark forms, brings far more to the table than the daisy ever thought to. The dandelion is just as yellow as a damn daisy, but when it goes to seed, it turns into an amusing children’s toy. The daisy can only offer the same white-and-yellow, the same shape, the same old, same old.
The daisy offers so little of what drives our very nation: ingenuity. We may have mistakenly placed crowns of daisies upon the tow-headed flower children of the sixties; I can’t help but to wonder what better future might have awaited us if it were the industrious rhododendron that came to symbolize “flower power,” and not the daisy. The daisy’s cultural imprint is limp and languid, and sometimes, even problematic. Henry James’ Daisy Miller was nothing more than a symbol of female sexual repression, and therefore, subjugation. Television’s Daisy Duke somehow represented a further regression in spite of her more advanced chronological position in the cultural timeline.
We can excoriate the daisy for its wild, almost confrontational laziness, for its perfidy, but what will that ultimately yield? There’s certainly a case to be made here for forgiveness. I eadily offer forgiveness to my fellow man. I forgive all the time; I forgave my mail-man for his unpredictable delivery and pickup times; I forgave the farm boys back in my wife’s hometown on Christmas break, talking about Don’t be a damn Jew and some such, however many years ago. If I can forgive the great ugliness of bigotry in another human, can’t I show the same compassion to the poor daisy?
In truth, I haven’t really forgiven the farm boys. They haven’t changed, and there will always be more bigots, just as there will always be more daisies, also forever unchanging. I won’t forgive them, either.