Of Botany and Beauty


The day begins with rain, some of it falling quite heavily. It is cool, but at 64 degrees it’s still heavenly compared to what is going on in the Northeast. I escape the wet cold through a double door of plastic, into the butterfly room of the Tucson Botanical Gardens. A wonderful blue specimen flutters near the entrance, welcoming me into its whimsical world. Colorful wings beat the air, while the tubular blooms that butterflies favor open wide their long throats in the midst of winter.

Give me a botanical garden and I’m a happy camper. Throw in a butterfly greenhouse and I’m ecstatic. There is a Frida Kahlo exhibit here too, filled with riotous color, her passion bleeding through everything she touched – gardens, paintings, homes, lovers. I look at a collection of her portraits – she favored exquisite and elaborate flower displays in her hair. She had a lifelong love affair with color. In such style, I recognized a plea for vivid purpose, a chance to squeeze so much feeling and emotion into a painting that it exploded with color and surreal grandiosity. So many think a garden is the stuff of quiet contemplation and peace, missing the turbulent drama that goes on just to get a flower to bloom, and then the devastating aftermath that follows. In beauty there is bloodshed.

“I love you more than my own skin and even though you don’t love me the same way, you love me anyways, don’t you? And if you don’t, I’ll always have the hope that you do, and i’m satisfied with that. Love me a little. I adore you.” ― Frida Kahlo

The butterflies float gracefully in the warm air inside their greenhouse. They seem to enjoy the colorful flowers too, blissfully unaware and unconcerned with how they came to be there.

Outside, the rain continues to fall. It catches on the flower petals, then drips to the ground. The flower heads look down until they release their heaviness, then bob back up, trying to face the missing sun.

 “I paint flowers so they will not die.” ― Frida Kahlo

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