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The vase is blue, its clay swollen with an abundance of fresh flowers as it sits on a hewn stone windowsill. The winter day outside matches the stone’s cold, grey hues, covering the window in a stark backdrop of mist and fog: a deep contrast to the roses–fresh, voluptuous, and white–that tumble from the vase’s wide mouth. Arranged among the flowers are rose hips, calling out to the drab day with rotund shouts of yellowish-orange.

The presence of rose hips in the bouquet pleases me, Rose Skeptic that I am. In general, I find roses over-lauded by culture. I’m not seized by love’s beauteous rapture when I look at a rose’s soft, flouncing petals. Instead, I think of nondescript male poets, feverishly comparing their beloveds to a blooming rose whilst also bemoaning the day when, like the blossom, her youthful beauty will shrivel and die and their love will be no more since she will either be: a.) Not hot or, b.) Totally dead.

Ugh.

Such romantic fixations on the young flower miss the rose plant at its most powerful, at its most giving. After summer comes the fall and the frost. A rose doesn’t shrivel and die after a frost, the plant just changes form. Ice and chill slice away shriveling petals. Then, at the tips of its thorny fingers, the plant bears a bright and bulbous fruit: packed with vitamin C and anti-inflammatory properties. It is this incarnation of the rose that provided vitamin C to English children when the Germans blockaded their island in World War II. It is this sepia-tinted flesh that enables arthritics to reclaim movement from stiffened limbs…

Not too shabby for a plant whose “beauty” fell away with the frost.

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