On a day trip to Ávila that I describe in a previous post, while my family enjoyed their mid-morning wine spritzers, I decided to stop and smell the flowers. Actually, to go downstairs to the rose garden below and try my dedicated macro lens on its beautiful roses. There were four different varieties there. One of them had two-toned flowers, which were by far the most eye-catching ones. They had a buttery center that had gradually matured into a pink gradient that delicatedly exploded near the edges. Then, there were the crimson ones, whose petals reminded me of the coarse texture of crepe paper on the outside and the richly hued quality of velvet on the inside. The other two, although two different colors, pink and white, shared the same creamy, silky character, as if they both had remembered to douse in moisturizer the night before to be ready to be admired and photographed.
As I was doing a little research to prepare for this post, I naively attempted to identify the varieties that I had photographed, but, as it turns out, there are almost as many different kinds of roses in the world as beautiful cities and quaint, historic towns in Europe. As a matter of fact, during my brief internet search, I discovered there is a whole world revolving around the genus Rosa. Good examples of this are the national and international societies entirely devoted to promoting knowledge and education about the empress of flowers.
But roses are more than just breathtakingly beautiful flowers. They’re also perceived as symbols, which is why it is probably no coincidence that roses, not sunflowers, not orchids, but roses, have been used in iconic literary works to symbolize utmost beauty and boundless love. The first one that comes to mind, probably because of what it meant to me growing up, is Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s “The Little Prince”. In his depiction of the nature of human relationships, the rose, immature, vain and capricious, is the object of the little prince’s somewhat codependent, yet unconditional love. His love for his rose allows him to see past its fleeting beauty and character flaws to find that which is ‘essential’ and inherently lovable in all beings; that which is ‘invisible to the eye’.
“ It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.”
― Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
Saint-Exupéry’s powerful message ties in nicely with Master Shakespeare‘s no less influential one. Uttered by Juliet’s archetypal lips, Shakespeare’s rose warns us against focusing on externals. Her timeless line prompts us to cast aside all that’s superficial and to look at the inherent nature of everything around us.
“…What’s in a name? that which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet…”
― William Shakespeare
This all brings me to a closing reflection: They say enlightened people are capable of seeing beauty in anyone and anything, and that this perception is not contingent on external circumstances or outer features. They also say this state is achieved by looking contemplatively within ourselves and finding that that is intrinsically beautiful about us, the part of us that “…by any other name would smell (just) as sweet…”. What a nice thought. Let us then let roses be a reminder of that from now on.