As I was setting the table for a dinner party a couple weeks ago, I picked up the lovely, elaborate silk arrangement from the center of the dining room table and relegated it to the mantle. I replaced the vacancy on the table with a vase of fresh flowers. For over a dozen years I have done this: replaced the imposter arrangement with a real one whenever we entertained. I caught myself this time as I brought the beautiful flora to the table and thought: “Why do I do this?”.
Silk flowers available now look remarkably authentic; oftentimes passing, at a glance, for the real thing. We can buy fake orchids, calla lilies, daisies in cute pots or baskets at TJ Maxx or Marshalls for close to nothing. But there is something in us that knows these arrangements are merely lifeless stand-ins for the real thing.
Only real flowers hold inherent, mortal beauty. Flowers are not supposed to live forever. Flowers are not supposed to gather dust. The reason we are so taken with the wild flowers in spring, the fields of sunflowers in summer is precisely because they arrive in glory for a time and then pass, only to delight us again when they reappear. If the wildflowers were always in the field, the sunflowers always in bloom, we would stop seeing them. Real flowers live and die. Indeed, their distinctive attraction is their very aliveness and the knowing that their beauty is poignantly short-lived.