May Blooms

May is the month of gardenia in Lebanon. This fragrant, fleshy white blossom is our sweetest herald of the spring. The Lebanese don’t talk much about gardenia, not the way they may tell and re-tell other customs. One day, suddenly, the flowers are just there, and then you wonder just how many people around the city quietly grow beloved gardenia bushes, because the blossoms are in every living room (they stay fresh for several days if floated in a cup of water), in people’s cars, on their clothes. Women can wear them in their hair and men keep them in hand without looking odd. These bushes are generous, bursting with buds that tun into several flowers ready to be picked a day, and they are too lovely and ephemeral to be hoarded: I know of no other flower or thing that is given away so actively, for no ritual or social reason, but purely out of a desire to share this movingly delicate beauty. As children, we (and others) brought our daily pick to school to share them with students and teachers, who always tolerated the presence of the blossoms on the otherwise strictly-business school desks. As grown-ups, we take them to work, or elsewhere – I met up with a friend at a café and she had brought one for me. The day I walked around defaced Hamra, looking somber, a security guard pulled one out of thin air as I passed by and put it in my hand. The giving a gardenia is done without comment, without bringing attention to itself, just as if we had all agreed in advance that in May, gardenia blossoms would go out into the world with their scented magic, and we would all just be the messengers.

A penny for your thoughts!