Ready to pursue your heart’s desire? All set for the big day of rampant romance? Did you spring for a sparkling expression of your everlasting love or do you plan to duck into the Kroger for a cellophane cocoon of the most well-travelled bouquet sixty dollars can buy?
Diamonds and perfume
Roses and chocolate
Nothing compares to our craving for profit
That was a little love poem from those in the “industry” of all things contrived, you know, love, happiness, generosity, security. Things we cannot possibly experience without spending some money first. I am not unaffected by the sentimental fumblings caused by Valentine’s Day. However, it is not because of roses and chocolates that I love my husband. Love requires more. It requires constant attention, every ounce of our energy, and all of the courage we can muster. Over a lifetime, this kind of commitment is tested in ways no mere institution could ever hope to endure. Love is our greatest responsibility to one another. We have poetry and prose that tells us everything we need to know about love and yet so many of us are willing to settle for sappy or sexy substitutes. Valentines are fun. Let’s not mistake them for love. Day after tomorrow they will be on the clearance rack.
Of course, nothing says I’m sorry for being a jerk like flowers. If I had to choose between anything and flowers, I would choose flowers every time. I love to receive them, to grow them, to photograph them. Having fresh-cut flowers in my home any day is a luxury, and each time I purchase a bunch I am reminded of the book “Flower Confidential,” by Amy Stewart, who tells the story of big business that has invented holidays to promote sales of the chemical dependent commodity that is the cut flower.
The price per stem we pay often comes at a much higher price to workers who grow, harvest, and prepare flowers for shipment. Pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, preservatives – all used in commercial flower production – negatively affect the health of workers who make it possible for us to enjoy the beauty of roses bred for longer vase life. Consumers get the most bloom for their buck, but we also get exposed to harmful chemicals when we bring them home and lie them on the kitchen counter to remove leaves and arrange them.
Stewart explains that a better business model is needed to make a difference in the cut flower industry. Of course, consumers must demand safe working conditions and less toxicity in the products we purchase in order to change industry standards such as pollute for profit. Like love, this requires constant attention, energy, courage, and commitment. I wonder, once we are made aware, how we can ignore our responsibility to the ones we love.
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