Flowers among the Ruins

Grace stopped directly in front of the rose bush. Right on top was a beautiful rose in full bloom. It wasn’t like any rose she’d ever seen before. Every one of its delicate, snow-white petals was trimmed in brilliant crimson.

She glanced down at the brand-new camera in her hand. Her grandchildren had given it to her in anticipation of this trip.  Her oldest grandson had shown her how to use it, but she didn’t really understand most of what he had told her, other than how to actually take a picture. She didn’t know how to check to see how many pictures there were before the camera ran out of memory.

The rose bush grew in front of the ruined monks’ cloisters at Canterbury Cathedral, and the stark stone ruins against the blue sky made a striking scene as well. She had roses in her back yard in Illinois, she told herself. On the other hand, the last time she checked, there weren’t any eleventh-century cathedrals close by.

But the fallen buildings reminded her of the thousands of photographs at home stuffed into photo albums and the thousands more stacked in boxes. She didn’t know what she was going to do with them, now. It didn’t seem right to throw them out. Many of them were quite good, but it also didn’t seem right to keep them. They weren’t hers. She hadn’t taken them.

They were all the same; pictures of churches, castles, towers, lighthouses, bridges, and skyscrapers; stone, metal, and brick; cold, gray, silent, imposing, and melancholy. A person was never the subject, not even her.

It made her think of the pictures she would have taken, if she had been allowed to use the camera—the pudgy boy in the café in Paris, wholeheartedly attacking an éclair, chocolate smeared across his face; the little girls all dressed in white, standing in a line outside the tiny church in Riomaggiore, nervously awaiting their first communion; the middle-aged belly dancer with the Mona Lisa smile in Istanbul, smoking a quick cigarette outside a night club between performances.

She would have shared them with the world, too, rather than hoarding them like a miser and only looking at them behind a closed and locked door.

The voice of the tour guide brought her back to the present. The tour group was moving on. Quickly, she raised the camera and aimed it just like her grandson had shown her. She pushed the button. When the image popped up on the camera’s small screen, she smiled. It was a very beautiful rose.

2 thoughts on “Flowers among the Ruins

  1. Lisa April 20, 2010 / 10:52 pm

    Very interesting scene. Good job with setting – especially liked the descriptions of the pictures she would have taken.

    • Matthew April 21, 2010 / 7:51 pm

      Thanks! I used a writing prompt for this. It was: “Describe a landscape as seen by an old woman whose disgusting and detestable old husband has just died. Do not mention the husband or death.”

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