Saturday, March 7, 2015

Readings and Greetings: The Language of Flowers

For 8 years I dreamed of fire.  Trees ignited as I passed them;  oceans burned...The moment my mattress started to burn I bolted awake..the bare synthetic mattress did not ignite like the thistle had in late October...The 18 wooden matches smoldered, and the fire went out.
Pansies: Think of Me 
It was my 18th birthday...The only ways out of a group home like this one were to run away, age out, or be institutionalized.  Level 14 kids weren't adopted.  These girls (in front of me) knew their prospects.  In their eyes there was nothing but fear. (pg. 13-15)

At the age of 18 Victoria Jones "aged" out of the foster care group home program and into independent living. The rule was simple:  three months rent free, after that she must pay for the rent or move out.  Victoria was handed an envelope with a $20 bill and a note that read--Buy food and find a job.  With no high school degree or foreseeable skills, Victoria found herself soon on the streets of San Francisco sleeping in a park flower bed. 

Victoria relates her story from her point of view.  In alternating chapters, the reader meets Victoria in the present on her own and alone,  while the contrast arises in the chapters of her earlier life where she bounced from foster home to foster home until the year she experienced the expression of love through family and flowers.
Tulips: Declaration of Love 

Just before her 10th birthday Victoria was taken to Elizabeth's home for possible adoption.  Her social worker reminded the child, "When you turn ten, the country will label you unadoptable and even I won't keep trying to convince families to take you...just promise me you'll think about that."

Elizabeth's bouquet of Starwort created a hostile conversation until finally curiosity took over.  "Starwart means welcome.  By giving you a bouquet of starwort, I'm welcoming you to my home, to my life," Elizabeth explained. 

"They look like daisies to me, and I still think they're poisonous." Victoria retorted.  Elizabeth went on to explain the intricacies of flower identification. 

Poinsettia, Be of Good Cheer
After the meal the two walked out to the garden, and to the wine vineyard for an visual explanation.  It took weeks and months before Victoria began to relax and enjoy her new home, and when Elizabeth suggested adoption Victoria was thrilled, but both Victoria and Elizabeth had past histories to deal with.  Those histories collided when a young Victoria did not have the skills to understand conflict and a respectable resolution to problems.   

Eventually, the language of flowers becomes the center of the newly independent Victoria's life.  In the next year the reader meets Renata, a florist who gives Victoria her first job, and Grant, a young man who also knows the language of flowers.  Life begins to have a steady path until once again Victoria runs away from love.

This story pulled me two directions. I was so drawn into Victoria's problems once she was pulled away from her only home and only caring person in her life, Elizabeth, that I thought I'd have to stop reading and save anymore heartache.  Luckily, I persevered. 
Zinnia, I mourn your absence.

The other direction the book took me was to begin to look at flowers and the meaning of flowers, just as Victoria did when she began to create bouquets of flowers that seemingly could make a difference in people's lives.  The author's note reads:  My goal was to create a usable, relevant dictionary for modern readers.  

The author, Vanessa Diffenbaugh, accomplished her goal through Victoria's inquisitive mind and drive to learn about life through the flowers, and through relationships.

Mums:  Truth
The pictures are of flowers from my garden that took on new meaning for me after reading this story.  Have you looked at your garden through the idea of the meaning of the flowers? In the back of the book The Language of Flowers is the dictionary that the author, through her character Victoria, created.  The dictionary of flowers can also be found on the authors website:  The Language of Flowers

The author is also passionate about the plight of children who age out of the foster care program.  She has set up a network to help.  It is called  the Camilla Network.  The mission is to:  to create a national network that connects every youth aging out of foster care to the critical resourcesopportunities, and support they need to thrive in adulthood.

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