Cover image by Hope “Silver” Bobb
There’s this play I’ve helped teach for a couple of years now—Chekov’s The Seagull.
It’s… well, it’s Chekov, so it’s a bit weird and the characters behave simultaneously too realistically and too dramatically to be totally comfortable, but for purposes of this blog post all you really need to know is that The Seagull does indeed contain seagulls.
A seagull is shot. A seagull is taxidermied. The strangeness of seagulls on a lake is commented on. Seagulls are envied for their ability to fly away. At the end of the play a character who has been suicidal since the first act successfully kills himself.
Chekov intended and marketed this play as a comedy, by the way, and then was confused by its poor reception.
The conceit of this is that seagulls in The Seagull can have as much or as little meaning as the audience wants.
The futility of art, the struggle for meaning, the meaninglessness of freedom, or of life, it’s all in there for those who want to make those arguments.
Conversely, a really meta-reader might say that the point of the seagulls in the play is their arbitrariness.
That we, the audience watching the world on Chekov’s stage unfold, can see what the characters in that world can’t: that the seagulls have no meaning.
That they are random and the characters in the play are trying to impose meaning on the inherently meaningless, the same way we in the real world have trained ourselves endow meaning on shooting stars or coins found in the street.
Events like finding a dropped penny in a parking lot or seeing a comet at night only have meaning on our lives because we, as a culture, decided that they do. Not because the object or event itself carries that meaning inherently.
Like I said, a very meta way of reading The Seagull, and a very cold way of looking at the world.
I tell you this, because I have my own, happier, seagulls.
Because roses are my seagulls.
I have a rose in my name, inherited from a great grandmother I never met, and my Mom once told me that the Sunday I was baptized, one of the alter flowers was the biggest rose she’d ever seen.
True to Texas cliché, yellow roses are my favorites.
I spent the summer I turned 20 working with the Ute Tribe and the cliff dwellings out in Colorado. When a group of students from the University of Denver working an archeological site in the area found out I was from Texas, they started belting out “Deep in the Heart of Texas” every time they saw me at the campground where we all stayed.
I in turn belted back “The Yellow Rose of Texas”, mostly because I couldn’t think of any songs about Colorado besides John Denver’s “Rocky Mountain High” and I don’t know all the words to that one.
The fact that the image of a compass down in the corner of a map is called a compass rose appeals to my traveler’s heart, just like Poison’s “Every Rose Has its Thorns” appeals to the part of me that wishes I was just a little more dangerous.
Roses are what drew me to the book blog I write for, to Katherine Paterson’s Bread and Roses, Too as a child, and to this poem by Barbara Guest.
It’s why I hum “Coming Up Roses” when I’m happy, why I tear up every time to this scene from the movie Pride(2014), and why I performed Bette Midler’s mildly maudlin “The Rose” at a concert with my piano teacher as a child.
It’s why I bought (rescued!) a reduced-price miniature yellow rose bush at the grocery store a year ago and have nursed it along ever since. This was not my first attempt with miniature roses, but this is definitely the longest lived.
Typically I “rescue” them and then prolong their suffering in all my well-intentioned ignorance.
Objectively, academically, I know that roses only hold meaning in my life because I’ve given them that power. I’ve spent a lifetime training myself to see them, and thus I notice them everywhere.
My arbitrary sign from the uncaring universe.
Any yet, they’re still my lucky charm.
My history, my namesake, and the thing that will always lead me home.
Chase thunder lovelies,
7 thoughts on “Roses from the Universe”
It is great to read more about you. I love roses too.
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I hope this comes through, Jen. A wonderful read. Jeannine
It came through as a link, not an image, but the link works and the roses are beautiful! Thank you for reading, J9!
Grandma Rosalie was a sweet person. Growing up, I would spend weeks at a time in New Orleans during the summer with her. She taught me how to cook Grillards, which I love. She also introduced me to fried oysters and we would go to the fish market and pick out oysters to fry for lunch subs. She was a sweetheart. You would have loved her. There is so much I wish I had asked her about our family history before she left us in December 1991. Keep up the good writings. I will keep reading and supporting you and your sister along with Nick, Jessica and Artie in your endeavors. Love you. Aunt Sheri
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Thank you for this, Aunt Sheri! I wish I could have known her, I know from everything I’ve ever heard that she was a special woman. Love you so much, see you soon!
You’re beginning to sound like Heidegger, eek! Fascinating synchronicity as I have been working on my roses today.
And Jessica Andrews’ “Who I am”, with the line “I am Rosemary’s granddaughter” in the chorus, just came across my Spotify mix. I’m telling you, there are roses all over my every day! Thanks for reading, Jim!