Why I Love Flowers

The following is an offshoot of this previous post.

          Why do I love flowers?  I really don't know how these beautiful creations, that have been almost exclusively created for women, could capture a man's heart.  Definitely not the smell, at least not for me.  Maybe it's the colors.  Maybe it's the variety of their shapes and behaviors.  Maybe it's the thought of hope, new life and the peak of a life cycle that they evoke.  Maybe it's my love for still life and landscape paintings

          Maybe it's my mother.

          Mother was an elementary school teacher who, after laboring for years as a rural provincial teacher in one of the poorest regions in the country convinced my father to move with the rest of our family to a mining community 700 kilometers up north.  I was barely two years old then.  She finished her teaching career with an early retirement in this mining community when I was in fourth year college.  She taught at three branches of the school, the longest at the main elementary school where we also resided.

          All mothers are special and are peculiar and all of us have the privilege of claiming we have the best mother in the world.  My mother will be the subject of a lot of my future blog entries that will be labelled "Naning" but now I only relate this post to her since I think I have learned to love flowers and plants through her, though I only realized this lately.

          She was the teacher at the Philex Mines Elementary School with the most number of plants and flowers.  There were only few teachers who decorated the interior and exterior of their classrooms with plants.  Mother was foremost among them.  She had plants inside her classroom and she had so many of them outside.  They dominated both sides of her classroom corridor that there was little space left for her pupils when they fell in line before class.  

The single storey building at the far end used to have a wooden 2nd floor (burned down a couple of years ago) and Ma's classroom was at the 2nd floor, right on top of that structure which you see now.   Photo courtesy of Tagaphilexako-tayo

          We lived at the teachers' quarters just behind her classroom.  Along the corridor in front of our house thrived her other botanical prizes.  Both those that are outside her classroom and outside our house were potted plants of varying pot sizes that stood on long wooden platforms.  Pots were mostly made of the cheap recycled green-painted rubber tires and orange-painted used paint cans.  Tall plants stood on platforms elevated only inches from the ground while short plants each had high stands, especially the most prized among her collections.  The taller stands varied from simple straight wooden four-legged designs to three-legged metal ones.  There were roses, carnations, fortune plants, orchids, dama de noches, euphorbias and lots of other plants whose names I never bothered knowing.  There were also small cacti that had their own raised shelves outside our house beside our main door, where visitors could get stung by thorns should they carelessly press the doorbell.  Steel railings along the corridors protected people from falling from each floor of our 5-storey apartment.  The top of these steel railings were altered so that potted plants can also sit along the handrails.  We lived here with all these plants until my second year in high school when the 1990 killer earthquake condemned our apartment.  That was one year before the Mt. Pinatubo eruption. 

          Mother had two pastimes that helped her enjoy and find some relaxation -- a stick of cigarette with coffee after meals and tending to her plants.   Connected with her two pastimes were two of the regular thankless errands and chores I hated the most, next to washing dishes and the daily cleaning of our dog's poop early in the morning.  (Now as I come to think of this, I realized my love for animals and pets came from my mother as well; she allowed me to care for, as opposed to merely have, pets like dogs, cats, white rats, rabbits, and even golden kuhol (snails) and she also showed me how to "help" our dog give birth to her pups even during typhoon season.  But  this is a digression so I'll stop  and probably write another post about this later).

          Going back to the thankless chores.  Since Ma smoked, I had to walk to the store at the Capitol area everyday to buy 2 or three sticks for her.  This chore only became enjoyable when I already had a skate board sent by Pa from Saudi Arabia.  I didn't complain about this vice since mother said it helped her relax and think.  This was when my father was still working abroad and Ma needed all the rest and time to think as she managed her teaching job and the raising of four children, two of whom were already in college while the third was about to join her two older brothers.  I was the youngest and was still in grade school when all three other siblings were already in college.  

          One incentive for me was I get to light the sticks and take the first puff.  I usually lit them through the kitchen gas stove.  So, even if Pa was the one who smoked two packs a day,  in a sense, it was Ma who started me into smoking; but I was really taught HOW to inhale the smoke into my lungs by my teachers in summer art school before I finished grade school.  To her credit, Ma also unknowingly made me quit smoking before I finished high school.  This deserves another blog post and again, I digress.

          Washing dishes was a thankless chore but I made it enjoyable by playing while washing.  I started washing dishes  when I was yet so small that I had to squat on the sink and walk on top of the counter to put washed items on the dish rack.  This I made fun by pretending I was a giant robot tasked to clean spoon and dish-shaped space ships.  I was also able to escape this chore since I had the (now embarrassing) talent of forcing my playmates to wash our dishes before they can play with me and my cheap toys and imaginary games.  I climbed the sink by opening the lower sink cabinet door and stepping on its middle horizontal support.  Then by the time I was in grade four I washed dishes by standing on a chair.  But this is another digression.

          Now the last thankless chore -- regularly watering ALL of her plants inside and outside her classroom and  the plants outside our house.  This was a hateful task since I always had to carry several loads of water through our plastic pails either from our CR or from the school's common faucet one floor down her classroom.  I hated this the most since most of the time I WAS NOT allowed to play without watering these useless plants.  I also had to carry these pails of water at night since Ma relaxed by watering her plants, trimming them, examining their condition, talking to them (yes, she did talk to them), and since she was outside this was also a time to greet and chat with everyone who were passing near our house.

          Next to watering and carrying several pails of water, I also hated having to carry ALL her classroom plants during weekends from her classroom corridor to the school grounds so they could have their fill of sunlight.  Then I had to carry all of them back to her classroom which was on the second floor of the wooden schoolhouse.  Her classroom plants never numbered below 20 and some of them were so heavy that a small hyper-active child like me could not lift without learning to swear.  This was one task even my imaginative mind could not cope with.  After all I could never imagine a giant robot struggling to carry a tree.  I simply hated my mother's plant and flower hobby. 

          Fast-forward to 2011.  I am an administrator in an international graduate school charged with all its daily operations.  We have a good-sized campus with lots of greens in the middle of a city of concrete.  We have coconut trees, ficus, a cherry blossom, other trees and a clump of tall bamboos.  We have all sorts of shade and sunlight plants and vines. During the seven years of intense work here, I realized one of my favorite tasks is supervising our school gardener.  I have a hands-on approach to our grounds maintenance and I spend almost every summer night  watering our school's grass and other plants.  The great difference from my childhood chore is our use of portable hoses and fixed sprinklers.

part of our grounds

New set ready for transplanting

I love the large leaves and deep greens of these (expensive :-() shade plants

One of the early morning shots I took 2 years ago

          I love watering plants and grass, evaluating their condition, determining when and what to fertilize them with, setting up sprinklers and  watching plants bring fresh air and an over-all natural environment in our school.  I feel so relaxed as I watch plants responding with green leaves and continuous blooms.  The hours I spend watering plants are also hours of quiet meditation and thanksgiving to the One who created and thought about all these life-enriching living things so we can mutually give life to each other.  So I guess this post is worship to the gentle Creator* of both the plants and myself and homage** to the mother who pestered and disrupted my weekends and summers but gave me the tools and disposition to live life -- tools and disposition that not even the highest education nor the greatest of monetary wealth could match.

          I love flowers.


*Romans 1 --19 since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. 20 For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.

 21 For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, 

**Ephesians 6:2:
Honor your father and mother”—which is the first commandment with a promise

-- Scripture quotes from www.biblegateway.com
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