Tag Archives: Nonfiction

‘The Secret Language of Flowers’, by Samantha Gray – review

The Secret Language of FlowersThe Secret Language of Flowers by Samantha Gray

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Lily says “You’re a good friend,” and Camellia wishes “Good Luck.” Daisy promises, “I will never tell.” They talk in silence, and their beautiful reserve is all the more appreciated by the sophisticated secret messages they carry. It’s the elaborate world of Floriography, language of flowers, based upon the legends and folklore ascribed to flowers exquisitely developed in the Victorian period, when an expression of feelings and emotions was constrained as an indication of propriety and ethical virtue. For years, Floriography has been something of flower-version of Morse Codes through the use or arrangement of flowers to deliver particular sentiments in the most subtly compelling way among those who find a niche in a quiet revelation of emotions and yearnings safely guarded in the secret garden of heart. In this regard, The Secret Language of Flowers by Samantha Gray is a treasure garden of 50 flowers speaking in their own words with beautiful illustrations that promises a dazzling treat to the eye as well as the mind of the reader.

Of the 50 flowers of Gray’s own choice, my selection of flowers is threefold: Crocuses and Lilies for their meanings that chime the bells of my heart resonate with their stories and meanings. A crocus, dedicated to St. Valentine, a Roman physician and a Christian priest during the reign of Claudius II, was sentenced to death for his faith and just before his execution, Valentine gave a jailer whose blind daughter he had treated a note for her in which he had wrapped a saffron crocus, the source of healing herb, saffron. As the girl opened the note, her sight was restored, and it was the yellow crocus she first saw that was shining like the golden sun. The message the condemned physician wrote was: “From Your Valentine”. It is said that if anyone who likes crocuses has a deeply spiritual aspect to his/her nature expressed in writing, painting, dancing, and music with a caring heart.

Lilies symbolize female beauty, purity, majesty, and charm against evil. Legend has it that a lily sprang from Eve’s tears as she was expelled from the Garden of Eden. It also has a different name of “Our Lady’s tears” as it came to being due to the tears by Virgin Mary – also revered as the Second Eve – at the Crucifixion. Furthermore, it is said that when Mary’s tomb was opened, Thomas, one of the Twelve Disciples, saw that her body had been assumed into heaven, and the place was filled with fragrant lilies. However, a sacredness of lilies do not confine in Christianity in the history of civilization. A lily was first discovered in the garden of an ancient villa in Crete about 1500 BC; it was dedicated to the Greek goddess Hera. According to legend, Zeus intoxicated Hera to nurse his son Hercules whose mother was a beautiful mortal woman named Alceme. When Hera awoke, she chucked the baby out of her breasts in horrified surprise, during which some of her milk gushed through the skies, creating a cluster of stars – the Milky Way- and some of it fell to the Earth, from which grew the first lilies.

Further to the divine touch of this modest pure beauty, lilies are known to ward off evil power associated with curses, omens, and possessions. Planting lilies in a garden protected it from ghosts and evil spirits, and monks accordingly grew them for decorating altars like stairways to heaven. But the most interesting fact about lilies that piqued my special attention is that it has been used as a tonic for strengthening a weak memory by applying it on the forehead and on the back of the head. Besides, it is known to boost common sense and impediment of speech. So maybe it’s high time that the reader in search of a magic portion to improve academic performance or develop the faculty of the mind wanted to check local herbalists to procure a tonic made from lilies.

Reading this book is like walking through the author’s private garden full of enchanted flowers that are in full bloom lovingly cared for by the gardener who understands the language they speak in silence. At the heart of this book lies the author’s love of Nature and Humanity that is fancifully nuanced in her story-telling like narrative with a collection of her own paintings that I find soothing and loving. Each of the 50 flowers speaks to the heart of the reader in its own language that is magical and fascinating in this world of grand collapsed grand hokum, fake news, and many a competing vehement opinions out of unbridled angst and anxiousness in a paroxysm of existential vertigo. Both a painter and a writer, Gray draws the reader to the world of Nature where the earth laughs in flowers. Upon reading this book, the reader cannot help but agree with Hans Christian Anderson: “Just living is not enough… One must have sunshine, freedom, and a little flower.” This is a beautiful read that tallies with its beautiful subject.

’Henry Viii’s invention of England’ – review

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History is a story of a people who have accumulated their cultural artifacts, political crafts, and societal conventions into a great reservoir of Tradition that becomes the bedrock of a country. Therefore, it is always helpful to understand the origins of political and social systems as well as cultural propensities of a country if you want to pronounce your opinion on the stimulating current affairs of a country without Ignorant Prejudice.

The one such apposite example can be illustrated in the case of Brexit, which is the UK’s withdrawal from the E.U, seemingly unwelcome by people who are involved in international businesses and those who want to work and live in the UK as non-citizens. As an outsider who has never been to the UK, I think it deemed inappropriate to criticize its decision to exit the E.U. for the reason that only the decision makers and the people favoring the Brexit should know better. Nonetheless, one thing is certain that the current Brexit fervor and all its inclusive phenomena are never a new thing.

The proverbial English isolationism or exceptionalism, a quaint sense of Englishness different from its continental counterparts, goes back to King Henry VIII’s break from the Church of Rome in 1532. His unquenchable passion for Anne Boleyn, while still married to Catherine of Aragon, led him to bold separation from the Church of Rome, the Pan-European, supranational ancestor of the EU and the Leviathan of Christendom, which would disallow his divorce from his wife who was an ardent Catholic from ardent Catholic Spain. With an audacious proclamation of being the Head of Church of England, Henry VIII ordered a confiscation of the lands and wherewithal of monasteries and convents all over the Island and banning of professing the papist religion to his subjects from the Duke to the Butcher. Furthermore, the king constructed Royal Navy to remind himself and his subjects that England was Fortress bound by watery demarcation. In this manner, Henry VIII gained the absolute jurisdiction over the ecclesiastical as well as political matters and rejected any foreign authority within England. In fact, the substantial consequence of all of it is the king’s creation of England – not Great Britain (excluding Northern Ireland) or the United Kingdom (including Northern Ireland) – as a national and cultural identity, firmly entrenched in religious, political, and cultural sensibilities of the English that we frequently associate.

In view of Henry VIII’s schismatic separation from the Church of Rome, today’s Brexit movement is a historical reprise of the English exceptionalism that has something to do with its geographical characteristic as an island that shaped the particular national character known as “Englishness.” Hence, Henry VIII’s establishment of the Church of England can be regarded as the forerunner of Brexit today and the invention of the cultural sensibilities encompassing all things English deeply embedded in its national character. With this in mind, we can look at the Brexit phenomenon in a more sensible and balanced perspective and understand that history is not a thing of the past but an ongoing process that moves on within its cultural legacies for centuries.   

 

Author’s note: this is based upon my reading of an article about ”Henry VIII’ s invention of England” from this month’s issue of BBC History. Knowing one’s history can quell blatant antipathy. Hence this essay.

Charles Dickens wanted to…

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Letters revealing Dickens’ attempt to accuse his wife of being mentally unstable (from Google)

All would have been well if the truth had remained buried under the dusty files of forgotten letters from the past in the bottom drawer of History.  Alas, it happened – a recent revelation of the letters delineating Charles Dickens, a literary great whom I admired, concocting a plot to send his sane wife to a mental institution in order that he and his 18-year old paramour could be forever together.   

How and why these forgotten letters have been brought into light out of the blue are clandestine from my reading of the article about such letters from the recent issue of a history magazine. Besides, the possession of the letters is curiously divided between the Atlantic Ocean because some of the letters are held by Harvard University in the U.S., while the others by the University of York in the U.K. The article does not provide the reader with more detailed information as to whys and wherefores of such divisional custodianship of the letters, not to mention the background of such uncovering of the provocative textual artifact that would certainly do no good on Dickens in any way. Methinks it would be a possibility that a descendant of the estranged wife Catherine Hogarth or even of their eldest child might have staged this rather dramatic publicity of the letters revealing the other side of the great writer out of indignation as comeuppance for his sins of adultery and perjury, which in a twist of whimsical irony befits the ethos of #MeToo Movement.

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Mrs. Catherine Dickens

The content of one such letter written by a neighbor of Catherine Hogarth details the following: (1) Dickens at the age of 45 fell madly in love with 18-year old actress named Ellen Ternan: (2) it was the death-knell of the marriage, pace Dickens’ complaints about his legal wife; (3) his wife confronted him when a bracelet meant for the young actress providentially was delivered to her, after which she separated from him by moving to a house in Kent with their eldest child. The rest of the children were in the care of their aunt, while Dickens continued his relationship with the actress until his death; and (4) after the separation, Dickens tried to seek for divorce from the court by trying to prove that his wife was mentally unstable and that she would be sent to an asylum. However, the attempt to seek such remedy was foiled by the absence of proof of her insanity.

The whole scandalous charade of this great literary figure reminds me of the axiom by Ralph Waldo Emerson that the admiration of great works of geniuses should not become the worship of idols. That is, one must disembarrass the idea of a story from the person of the author, who is only a fallible, whimsical, temperamental human. The works of writers, I believe, are a separate reality based upon their epistemological knowledge magically alloyed in imaginativeness, ideals, and dreams in the peculiar alchemy of literature that deserves of distinguished approbation and recognition. In this regard, my disappointment with Dickens as a person should be kept separate from my admiration of the humane characters he created and the benevolent stories he entertained. Sometimes, it’s better not to know much about whom you like lest his follies and faults should dishearten you against your wishes and imaginations. For these reasons, I am more in sorrow than in anger upon reading this troubling article about Dickens, one of my all-time favorite writers, which leads me to the lamentation of Et tu, Mr. Dickens?

music of life

1dc50954796a2e0491b7dc93d333effdPaul McCartney sings, “Long and Winding Road,” whereas Rod Stewart utters, “I am sailing.” Then Tom Cochrane brings life back to land by proclaiming “Life is a highway.” Whatever metaphor they confer upon life, one thing is certain that it has a meaning, a sense of sui generis purpose, which leads all humankind to the glory of Enlightenment. Methinks life is a very long marathon race toward the grande finale after sailing through the vicissitudes of human conditions in the course of solipsistic running. That’s why all life is priceless and worth the living. How fast I will run and what route I will take is totally contingent upon my sui juris decision. Frank Sinatra knew it as in My Way, and the Animals shout out, “It’s My Life.” Snoopy, as wisecracking as ever, sums it all of the above.

Author’s Note: I came upon this felicitous Snoopy cartoon on the last train home. It gave me a fillip to this short vignette. You know what? I feel much better now. 🙂

The moon in colors

71wjr9Kv-JL._SY355_What would it be like to have the luminescent Moon all to yourself in your room? Wouldn’t it be fantastic to have it in your hands glowing, strobing, and flashing in rainbow colors? But I know the feeling of how it’s like to be part of the Universe in physical sense because I have it: the Moon, the Queen of the nightly sky, the symbol of goddess Artemis, my favorite goddess of the Greek mythology in the form of  a  new  Moon Lamp 3D Printing  16 Colors Moon Light.

This Moon Lamp is a lovely novelty both in design and in functionality. It is a pretty lamp that bears a striking resemblance to the real Moon with what seems to be lunar swirls and craters on the surface that feel pleasantly soft in touch. It is about as big as a cantaloupe and light into the bargain, so I can move it around in any place. The lamp comes with a cable cord, a small wood stand, and a remote control With which I can change the colors and the intensity of the light as well as set a timer for the moonlight show at night. It’s also relaxing and pacifying to look at the glowing light of the Moon when I read and write at my desk. The mysterious luminance fills the room with serenity and beauty that translates my earthly dwelling into a small universe of my own, part of the mythological world of gods and goddesses, with bestowal of sacred ability of prophecy like a Sybil or Pythia.

I am glad that my choice of this Moon Lamp chimes the bell of my love of mysteriousness and want for calm pleasantness at night when I am home. I glory in the novelty of it all, and it also seems to entertain my mother who likes the most when the lamp turns into a lavender color. As poet W.H. Auden compared woman’s love to the soft and gentle light of the Moon he called “this lunar beauty,” I compare my new lamp to this electronic lunar beauty.