As family members waited at Orlando’s Beardall Senior Center to hear about their loved ones, a couple of women who lived nearby realized why all the cars were there and went around leaving flowers (carnations) and messages (we love you) under their windshield wipers. A small act of grace in the midst of so much horror.
Flowers often have bit parts in scenes of conflict. Carnations were put in the gun barrels of National Guardsmen during a 1967 peace march, as was famously documented by photographer Bernie Boston. In the poem, “Flanders Field,” poppies remain after the carnage is over. And at impromptu memorials after every tragedy, flowers are heaped high. Similar to the rainbow flag, they are vivid, defiant-if fragile-symbols of life and happiness.
It’s easy to despair, or hate. It’s also easy to turn away, to bury yourself in your private concerns. Many people, however, including all who are helping the Orlando victims and families, are going in the direction I would choose-love and unity. Just a week ago, I watched one of Buffalo’s most vibrant, unifying celebrations, Pride, march through my neighborhood; I am sure many of you have witnessed great Pride events in your own towns. That solidarity and fearlessness needs to continue.
In my community of friends, we bond over gardening, with LGBT gardeners leading the way. (It’s just the truth.) On the Sunday after Orlando, I was in the garden of two wonderful friends, mock protesting as they pressed me to take some of their extra plants. For all three of us, the positive act of creating such beauty as we could-and supporting other living creatures by doing so-was helping to outweigh the sadness. Just helping, because nothing can erase it.