Saturday, January 23, 2010

exploring the moments

Justin and I are coming up on our six-month 'anniversary' of the day we were married.  Our wedding day was long and very busy, like most, and it was filled with precious, instantaneous memories and moments.  My mind has recently been revisiting a few of these moments, and playing them back over and over, like a song on repeat, and I guess I need to figure out why they're so important.

One such moment came very early in the morning on our wedding day.  I woke up, with no alarm clock, around 7.  Like a serene valley surrounded by a shattering dam, my empty, sleepy mind was inundated with the list of things to do.  I mentally sorted through the debris of mundane tasks, and remembered the one thing I'd been saving for last.  The one I was looking forward to.  I had to make my bouquet.

I did all my own flowers and corsages and boutonnieres for the wedding.  Most of the decorations at the reception and ceremony were very simple - just a riot of vivid blooms, in glass vases and jars culled from thrift stores and our own home.  I loved making everything I possibly could, like the corsages.  I made them out of fake flowers so I could do it ahead of time. For weeks, our dining room table had been strewn with scraps of flowers, twigs, ribbon, hot glue, and the antique brooches I attached to all the women's corsages.  Each one was unique.  Our pastor's boutonniere matched the one for our wedding coordinator...who happened to be his wife.  The moms and grandmas had scraps of lace, trimmed from my gown, incorporated into their little arrangements.  Each one was special, with meaning.  I'd sit down at the table almost every evening, not beginning with any tangible ideas; but what came from my fingers was fueled by pure imagination, and the finished product was always better than I could've imagined.
Some of the flowers. :)

I only had to make four main bouquets, and these were made almost completely of real flowers.  My sisters, the bridesmaids, each had unique bouquets, and I'd never made bouquets before so they weren't anything fancy, but I made each one for them, just the right size and shape.  I made them the night before the wedding, two before the rehearsal dinner, and one after.

And, I wanted my arrangement to be different from the others...different than other bouquets I'd seen brides carry, and different than my sisters'.  I didn't want this big stiff shield.  I wanted something beautiful, natural, easy-going.  And I wanted it to look the same on all sides. This might sound weird, but I didn't want to have to worry about the best side facing out.  (And besides, shouldn't I be the one to see the pretty side in that scenario?)  Oh, and no roses.  Actually there were no roses anywhere in the entire place. Boo-ya.

But as I quietly made my way downstairs that morning, rubbing the sleep from my eyes and trying to prepare myself for the day, I had absolutely no idea what I wanted my flowers to look like.  I should have been terrified.

The house was quiet and still, full of promise and early clear sunlight.  I remember these moments so vividly.  The only other person awake was my mom, ever hard-working, putting dirty clothes into the washer and flapping the dry ones in the air, to work out the wrinkles.  She wouldn't have time to iron that day. Just because her daughter was getting married didn't mean the others wouldn't need clean, unwrinkly clothes that weekend.

The basement table was covered with many flowers I could hardly clear a place to work.  Ideas danced vaguely in my mind, and before I knew what I was doing, I'd decided I had to use the rest of my creamy white ranunculus, the full, lush buttercups. The working of my hands was therapeutic; the small busyness of it relaxed my mind, like a vacation from all the large busyness I knew the day would bring.  The floral wire was pushed through the length of the wimpy stems, the disproportionate blooms needing support. The stems were juicy and full of lively water, and for a fleeting instant, I felt guilt for destroying those delicate little miracles to make something else.

Marriage is a sacrifice, there's no arguing that point. And when you think about it, everything worthy and good in this life--a promotion, having kids, buying a house, traveling the world to do charity work, going to college--only comes through some sort of loss.  Freedom. Independence. Family proximity. When I agreed to be married, I decided that marriage was more important than many other things in my life, and not all of them were bad things. Like me, those ranunculus had to be cut and strengthened on the inside, not painlessly, so they could be part of something neither they nor I could have known.

While I knew I needed to use the ranunculus, I also wanted to incorporate my tall, deep purple dendrobium orchids, the prized flower of the day. They were, and still are, the most beautiful flowers I'd ever seen. They were in all the bouquets, in all the simple arrangements in the church and at the reception, all over the cake, and right before we all walked the aisle, I even tucked a few into my sister's hair.  The ranunculus, by this time, had formed themselves, now confidently sturdy-stemmed, into a small, tight cluster. It looked perfect on all sides. On its own, it would have made a charming little bouquet.  I didn't want to break it up, so I started sticking the dendrobiums into the top of the whole thing.  I used four or five orchid stems, and maybe 20 ranunculus.

I also used a few tiny stems of fake Lilies of the Valley, both in my bouquet and in all my sisters'.  When all the real flowers had died, I wanted us all to have a memento.  The fake little ones were clustered at the very center, the starting point of the whole creation, a tiny bouquet created on their own.  The real flowers would die all around them.  Isn't that interesting, and a little sad?  I hardly know what to make of it.

I finished my flowers with a deep purple ribbon from one of our gifts.  (Bed, Bath and Beyond used my exact color for the ribbon they wrapped lots of our gifts in.)  So, somehow, I ended up with my bouquet.  I had no intent going into the process, and very little direction once I'd begun.  I really have no idea how it came together like it did.  The result was unusual, and a little strange, and just perfect.  Later I'd joke that it looked like something from Dr. Seuss.  Even in its oddity, though, it was right and good, and I wouldn't have had it any other way.

It was like writing, I guess.  Or anything creative. You just have to go to it, give yourself time and the raw materials, and let your hands do the work.  There's real energy in your hands, I think.  And there's always more in your brain than you'll ever realize, and so when you get chances to make things, your brain gets to be exercised even in the background, where you don't usually notice it.  That background noise is the creative energy; it lives behind you all the time.  I can't usually define up-front what I want, but once I start putting the words, or flowers or fabrics or foods together, the creativity comes out, and something wonderful happens.

My bouquet got kind of soggy after sloshing around in a jar to keep it fresh, as we drove from place to place to take our photos that day.  When I walked down the aisle, I didn't hold it up to my waist.  It just didn't feel right that way. Superficial somehow.  I held it at my side, naturally and easily, right where it belonged.  My sisters ended up holding theirs in the crooks of their arms, although I hadn't planned that either.  It looked much better to me than holding them stiffly at the waist.  But I didn't know how to make any kind of bouquet, other than the long slender kind.  That is okay.  I wouldn't have had it any other way.

What does all this mean?  It's about something beautiful being produced, spontaneously and unplanned, from a mess...and it was always better than I could've imagined.  That's how all of my flowers were.  The mess at the dining room table needed to stay a mess for a month, so I could sit down and let my creativity flow through my hands, making something lovely and unique.  My own bouquet wasn't planned, and we hadn't planned how to carry our flowers.  But that really worked well, too.

At the beginning, I didn't mean for my relationship with Justin to turn out like it did.  Neither of us had dated before and we fumbled around it, gaining more understanding as time passed by us.  The raw materials laid around us, and slowly, bits of our lives came together, and, sometimes painfully, began to form a greater, more meaningful whole.  More than once I felt mangled and useless. God guided used each of us to guide and shape the other, to make us fit together.  The great Creator, working in the background.

Even when two flowers complement each other perfectly, you can't make a bouquet by just laying them next to each other.  It's a process. You trim off the extra leaves, and cut the stem, and wire the stem if it's too weak on its own, and you wrap green tape around everything.  You may not realize what it's going to be, but you simply trust that whatever's working through your hands, speaking and living from an unknown, silent place, is proven and trustworthy, and can make the most wonderful things out of a mess.

I didn't know what I was doing when I began, but the raw materials--along with the creativity, imagination and faith--were all there.  And I knew the result would be beautiful.


  1. nikki, i can't believe it's already been 6 months! you did a great job on all the flowers and they were definitely very "you". you're such a deep thinker- i love reading all the analogies and meaning you find in everyday life!

  2. Thanks Natalie! I'm glad you liked it. Sometimes things just stick in your mind, and you know they must mean something. :) Your turn is soon!!!

  3. Nikki, you have a gift with words (and photos and flowers!) that truly captures you. It just seems so you to have waited and not planned and created at the moment. I just wonder how well your mom slept that night??? lol