Flower meditation 3

Confession: I am not a fan of hydrangeas. I first encountered them by my grandmother’s front door, where there were a couple of pretty scraggly specimens, an inauspicious start. The big snowballs of flowers seem more comical than lovely. The foliage doesn’t add much . . . Oh, I don’t really know my reasons, and it’s mean-spiritied to list them, or to try to come up with them. Taste is not rational, and I just didn’t like them much.

They do have that fascinating characteristic of acting as litmus paper for the soil, or at least some varieties do. The same plant can produce blue flowers if the soil is acidic or pink if it’s alkaline, and a very high pH might make them positively red. That’s cool, but it hasn’t been enough to make me appreciate the way they look.

What did change my attitude was putting together the Flower Communion video. Choosing which flowers went on which background color made me notice subtle shadings within the flowers, and looking at the flowers so many times helped illuminate aspects of them that I had breezed by in the past. Hydrangeas, it turns out, are subtle. How could I have thought they were just oversized Dr. Seuss puffballs, when each cluster is made of so many delicate little flowers, overlapping and creating their own homegrown bouquet? How could I have thought the colors bland when they are actually infinite shades arranged together? Now that I looked closely, not even each petal was monochrome, but shaded from dark at the vein-rich centers to lighter at the edges, or sometimes even had different hues, pink and blue and white in one floret (now what kind of soil explained that?) .

You probably like hydrangeas just fine. But if you are like me, there are other moments of beauty you’ve missed because of some prejudice or habit of seeing. Some time contemplating this flower more closely may refocus your vision, too.

The photo is by Barbara Saxton, of her hydrangea, a plant I will never dismiss again.