|Rosa 'Complicata' 5 August 2022|
With a lot of frequency I have written here that what makes us human and separates us from some other earthly life forms is our ability to associate disparate things. In some cases those associations are entirely personal (objective?) involving memories from the past that somehow connect with an event or something seen, heard, touched, tasted or smelled in a contemporary setting.
Consider this scan today of the Gallica Rose, Rosa ‘Complicata’. Immediately when I write that I know that not too long ago it would have been written Rosa complicata noting that this beginning-of-the-20th century introduction once was seen as a species but now it is considered a cultivar which means that some human may have combined the pollen of a couple of roses.
My very large Rosa ‘Complicata’ was given to me 30 years ago by the New Zealander plantsman Alleyne Cook, now deceased, who was well known in the Vancouver garden community of having planted many of the rhododendrons in Stanley Park.
I associate him with an event that happened on Tuesday 2 June 1953. It was lunchtime in my Buenos Aires home. I was 10 years old. My mother called, “Alex, wash your hands and knees (I wore short pants) and come to lunch.” I answered, “Mother I cannot yet as I am listening to the coronation of my queen.”
On that day Alleyne Cook was working in London in Constance Spry’s School For Girls. In early morning she had told Alleyne, “Please cut some flowers as we are decorating Westminster Abbey for the queen’s coronation."
Today 5 August 2022 I was pruning Complicata as one is supposed to prune a once blooming (unremontant) rose after it has bloomed. She bloomed (for me most roses are female, an exception could be my Rosa ‘James Mason’ and ‘Abraham Darby’) in the beginning of June.
So how would it be possible that I spotted this single flower?
My immediate thought was that this rose, like cats and babies does not necessarily perform on demand. My Complicata has a life all her own. She provides me with pleasure and beauty but does her own thing.
Immediately I associated this single bloom with my departed Rosemary.
I do not really believe in spirits or ghosts. But since Rosemary died on 9 December 2020 I have coined an expression “absent presence”. That rose was a reminder of what I had in my 52 year marriage to Rosemary. That rose was Rosemary smiling at me in my memory. In that rose I saw her lovely face and hands and reminisced of our good times in bed and out of it. I remembered her deadheading our roses.
Yesterday Hilary came for dinner and when we were getting ready to set the table I told her, “I feel that at any moment Rosemary will come down the stairs to join us.”