Sophia was sitting in the warm and cozy breakfast nook sipping on her Earl Gray from a delicate china cup, with a half-eaten bagel in front of her, while she looked out the tall windows at the astonishingly beautiful flower garden, focusing first on the day lilies, then upon the s-shaped row of monkey grass, cream-colored magnolias, azaleas, and so many other growths of glory stretching toward the brilliantly shining sun. Colors bright and vivid flowed in and out, entwined like one marvelous tapestry.
Sophia placed her cup back down on the fine, hand-crafted saucer, and picked up her sketch pad from the solid oak table to resume her work on an artistic rendition of the roses, marigolds, chrysanthemums, and all the impressively beautiful variety of flowers outside. Her pencil sketch of the garden she and her husband, John, had planted and took such great pains to care for, was more than half completed, and this simple knowledge brought a smile to her angelic, but worn and tired face, as it forcefully occurred to her that her drawing would long outlast her and the flowers as well.
Cancer is such a terrible disease, she thought, cutting me down in the prime of life … but, then, life ends in death, does it not, which is why we strain to create beauty and sacrificially fight to preserve it.
Why even this? After all…
Our life is short and dreary; there is no remedy when our end comes; no one is known to have come back from Hades. We came into being by chance and afterwards shall be as though we had never been. The breath in our nostrils is a puff of smoke, reason a spark from the beating of our hearts; extinguish this and the body turns to ashes, and the spirit melts away like the yielding air. In time, our name will be forgotten; nobody will remember what we have done; our life will pass away … dissolving like the mist.
Meanwhile, out in the garden, John reached out to pluck a rose for his soulmate and immediately felt the pin-prick, like a tiny sword opening layers of skin, followed by a swift flow of blood and throbbing pain, yet he thought it somehow quite appropriate. Love often brings pain, and pain often gives rise to beauty.
His particular suffering this morning brought in its train an image not only attractive by way of its own natural, living glory, but attractive to something “higher,” something enduring and almost overwhelmingly mysterious – perhaps Beauty itself. And so John could not help but think what an elegant and powerfully simple painting it would make: the stem, petals, thorns … and blood on the rose.
 Elaine Scarry, On Beauty and Being Just, 5 – 6; cf. also Aristotle, “Poetics,” On Man in the Universe, 423
 Book of Wisdom 2.1 – 4a, NJB
 Scarry, Op Cit, 3; also, “the material world constrains us, often with great beneficence, to see each person and thing in its time and place, its historical context. But mental life doesn’t constrain us. It is porous, open to the air and light, swings forward while swinging back, scatters its stripes in all directions, and delights to find itself beached beside something invented only that morning or instead standing beside an altar from three millennia ago.” Scarry, 48
3 thoughts on “Blood on the Rose, Part A”
Beautiful, Jonathan. We love the rose as well as the thorns that go with it. Yes, my energy is limited still, 10 years after cancer!
It takes a lot out of you, that’s for sure… I can only imagine how demanding it is to recover from cancer! Thank you once again for your most gracious words. Blessings to you!
You’re so welcome, Jonathan. I enjoy your writing!