16 July 2012


A wallflower hangs in the background while others move to the center and dance. Either from shyness or some variety of unpopularity, the wallflower stays on the fringes of activity, sometimes an astute observer of the scene, but also one not prone to reveal what s/he knows. That the wallflower is present at all attests to her desire to dance, but something keeps her from the floor. According to the On-line dictionary, the term ‘wallflower’ (http://www.thefreedictionary.com/wallflower), refers to “the fragrant flowers of Cheiranthus cheiri [that] came to be called wallflowers because they often grow on old walls, rocks, and quarries. The plant name is first recorded in 1578. It is not known who first made the comparison between these delicate flowers and the unpartnered women sitting along the wall at a dance, but the figurative sense is first found in an 1820 work by Mrs. Campbell Praed entitled County Ball.” The word originally described women at dances, but today the word applies to men as well and to situations that are far removed from the dance floor. Wallflowers are not outsiders but they are found outside of society; I think wallflowers are not anti-social, but rather, may be socially averse. I suspect that the wallflower could change the quality of the entire room if only he entered into it, yet, its wonderful fragrances are lost to the crowded room because the flowers cling desperately, even longingly to the walls. And yet . . .
Perhaps the wallflower is also an invitation. S/he waits for someone to act—to pluck her bloom off of the wall and carry her fragrance and delicacy out into the room. There is much beauty in the flower. The wallflower may be afraid but is open to a call; the wallflower waits to be taken, and offers hope in return.
Wendy Wall sings of this invitation in “The Wallflower’s Waltz:”
These may be hard times these days
But there’s a way to break the fall
Let’s get out and get ourselves some congregation
The night is young and I’m in full bloom here on this wall
I hear music and it’s playing my salvation
I think the wallflower knows the risks that accompanies entering the dance, but who knows better the benefits of the dance to fare in life. The invitation here reminds me of Robert Francis’s poem “Summons,” about which I wrote some time ago here. In “Summons” the narrator longs to be awakened, but there is no sense of sadness in his entreaty. He already knows what he will be told, and he could even enjoy the wonder without his companion. But in “The Wallflower’s Waltz” the grief is palpable and overwhelming: the wallflower is full of life and wants only to share her sense of life. She won’t—maybe even can’t—dance alone; but she is ready and in full bloom and only awaits someone’s inviting grasp so that she might join:
Won’t you take up my hand
Lift me off of my seat
Spin me onto that floor
Sweep me off of my feet
A bloom withers on a vine
Left alone left to chance
And it’s breaking my heart not to dance
The desire and loneliness expressed in the final line saddens me.
It is heartbreaking not to dance, not to join with others in joy and gaiety; that because of some private motive that paralyzes the will to sit alone waiting longingly and invitingly.
It is painful to anticipate the dance and then not to waltz, to watch without a smile the smiles of the dancers. It breaks one’ heart to hold out the hand and have the invitation unrecognized or even spurned.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh dear...you are so intuitive and such an excellent archer to know just where to aim your arrow of words...and the flood gates opened and I know not the final destruction my tears will cause.

Yes, I have always been a "wallflower." I do not intend to spurn nor not recognize the proffered hand but my fear (even though I know not from where it stems) continues to paralyze me. In my current mind set, I'm thinking it would be easier to chop the plant down and pull up the roots.

You may want to steer clear of this drama.

16 July, 2012 09:07  
Blogger Alan A. Block said...

Why pull down the wall? Call in the gardener and trim the vines.

16 July, 2012 10:06  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Exactly...that is why I said I missed you. I think you just might be the gardener I need to visit with (someone whom I looked up to years ago and less expensive than my current therapist!!)

I just can't get myself to call you.

17 July, 2012 16:15  
Blogger Alan A. Block said...

I'm sorry for that . . .

17 July, 2012 16:52  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

No need for you to be sorry; it is my problem. I'll just continue to read your blog, which helps me in some way, while I wait for the world to change for the better so I can feel like I want to partake in it again and lose this haze of pain I've put myself in.

Have you ever read "Tuesdays With Morrie?

17 July, 2012 22:14  

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