The Elegance of Birth Month Flowers

IMG_1619I was a little girl in my grandmother’s backyard on a sunny May afternoon when I spotted a thick patch of tiny, white bell-shaped flowers. As if it was a secret, Grandma whispered, “They are called lily of the valley, and they are your own special flower because your birthday is in May!” I’m sure I smiled ear-to-ear believing this flower bloomed for me and me alone. I immediately felt a connection to the delicate little flower that smelled so sweet and seemed the perfect size for a fairy’s house.

Since that day, I’ve been in love with my birth month flower. I was thrilled last May when a sizable patch of lily of the valley bloomed along the side of the house we had moved into a few months before. This spring was no different, although the patch has gotten noticeably bigger. Recognizing how much I adore this little flower, my husband made me a pretty stained glass lily of the valley for my birthday that now hangs in our kitchen window.

IMG_1614

According to the book The Language of Flowers by Odessa Begay, lily of the valley was a favorite of French fashion designer Christian Dior. He designed his personal stationery with the flower and even stitched lily of the valley on the inside of linings and hems. For good luck, he always made sure at least one model in every fashion show was wearing a little bunch of the flower. In 1956, Dior released his fragrance Diorissimo featuring the notes of lily of the valley. That same year Grace Kelly carried a small bouquet of lily of the valley when she wed Prince Rainier of Monaco.

One of my favorite writers, Paul Lawrence Dunbar, wrote a beautiful poem titled The Lily of the Valley in 1913. The first stanza reads ~

Sweetest of the flowers a-blooming
In the fragrant vernal days
Is the Lily of the Valley
With its soft, retiring ways

Some may find sentimentality about flowers old-fashioned and frivolous, but I would disagree. In contrast to the coarseness of the world, flowers bring joy, and their history offers hope that despite whatever comes our way, they will keep enchanting us.

What do you know about your birth month flower? Here’s a simple guide to get you started, including what each flower can symbolize. I encourage you to explore the meaning and history of your birthday flower and feel just a little bit special believing it exists just for you.

Birth Month Flowers Through the Year:

January ~ Carnation  admiration, love, luck
February ~ Violet  modesty, faithfulness, wisdom
March ~ Daffodil  new beginnings, happiness, prosperity
April ~ Daisy purity, transformation, innocence
May ~ Lily of the Valley honor, purity, bliss
June ~ Rose happiness, romance, love
July ~ Delphinium grace, positivity, joy
August ~ Gladiolus passion, strength, integrity
September ~ Aster love, patience, magic
October ~ Marigold creativity, peace, warmth
November ~ Chrysanthemum compassion, friendship, joy
December ~ Narcissus hope, wealth, protection ยง

“Like the lily of the valley in her honesty and worth
Ah, she blooms in truth and virtue
in the quiet nooks of earth.”
~ Paul Lawrence Dunbar

‘Merry Autumn’ – a seasonal poem and art project

I had so much fun making this wax paper, crayon, and leaf collage. Make your own to relax, flex your creativity, and celebrate fall!

While we were preoccupied with our collective concerns during this difficult year, spring and summer came and went and autumn faithfully arrived in all its golden glory. Immersing ourselves in a seasonal poem and simple art project can bring calm, creativity, and celebration of a new season.

For some reason, many classic poems about autumn are a bit depressing. Shakespeare referred to this time of year “As the deathbed when it must expire.” Robert Frost penned, “Then leaf subsides to leaf, so Eden sank to grief.” Emily Bronte wrote of fall, “I shall sing when night’s decay ushers in a drearier day.”

As beautiful as those poems may be, they don’t exactly inspire cheer. Thankfully, Paul Lawrence Dunbar favors a merry autumn over a solemn one. I especially love the lines, “The earth is just so full of fun, it really can’t contain it.”

Merry Autumn by Paul Lawrence Dunbar

It’s a farce, – these tales they tell
About the breezes sighing.
And moans astir o’er field and dell,
Because the year is dying.

Such principles are most absurd –
I care not who first taught ’em;
There’s nothing known to beast or bird
To make a solemn autumn.

In times, when grief holds sway
With countenance distressing,
You’ll note the more of black and gray
Will then be used in dressing.

Now purple tints are all around;
The sky is blue and mellow:
And e’ven the grasses turn the ground
From modest green to yellow.

The seed burrs all with laughter crack
On featherweed and jimson;
And leaves that should be dressed in black
Are all decked out in crimson.

A butterfly goes winging by
A singing bird comes after;
And Nature, all from earth to sky,
Is bubbling o’er with laughter.

The ripples wimple on the rills,
Like sparkling little lasses;
The sunlight runs along the hills
And laughs among the grasses.

The earth is just so full of fun
It really can’t contain it;
And streams of mirth so freely run
The heavens seem to rain it.

Don’t talk to me of solemn days
In autumn’s time of splendor,
Because the sun shows fewer rays,
And these grow slant and slender.

Why, it’s the climax of the year, –
The highest time of living! –
Till naturally its bursting cheer
Just melts into thanksgiving.

Paul Lawrence Dunbar, born in 1872, was one of the first African American poets to gain national recognition. His heartwarming short story ‘The Finish of Patsy Barnes’ is one of my favorites.

Reading and thinking about Dunbar’s Merry Autumn, may put you in the mood to do this art project. No matter how grown-up we get, throwing ourselves into something fun and creative can do wonders for our mental health.

Fall Art ProjectWax Paper Leaf Collage:

Supplies: wax paper, leaves, crayons, dull knife, piece of cloth, iron
Basic Instructions:
1. Go outside and collect a few colorful leaves.
2. Arrange leaves on a piece of wax paper.
3. Using a dull knife, cut a few crayons into small pieces. (I made mine about the size of peppercorns.)
4. Scatter crayon pieces around leaves on wax paper.
5. Lay another piece of wax paper on top of leaves and crayon pieces.
6. Place a piece of cloth over wax paper. (A cloth napkin works well.)
7. Press heated iron onto cloth until crayons melt and wax paper is fused together. Do not let iron directly touch wax paper. Lift and press iron to keep colors from running together too much.
7. Display your fall art project in a window or wherever makes you happy.

Question of the Week: What is your favorite thing about autumn? Leave your answer and any other reaction to today’s post in the comment section. I’d love to see a photo of your fall art project! Please email it to me at Alicia@thesimpleswan.com. Wishing you a week spent enjoying “autumn’s time of splendor.”