A rose by any other name still hurts

Throughout history, poets and philosophers have acted like roses were the greatest flower ever. This baffles me. My garden features a large, unwieldy rambling rose, and I’m terrified of it.

Granted, it’s beautiful. While my other flowers generally give way to weeds as my interest in gardening wanes over the summer, this rose is unstoppable. It blooms prolifically late every June, putting forth a show of hundreds of hot pink flowers. It captivates passersby and distracts them from the wasteland that surrounds it.

But it’s trying to kill me.

I mean, all of my flowers are trying to kill my spirit. Each year, they succumb to my neglect, reminding me of my inadequacy as a gardener. But the rose is out to destroy more than my ego; it wants me to bleed to death.

To be clear, this is not some fancy, rarefied kind of tea rose that requires special anti-fungal treatments and the gentle care of a gardener with an MBA in pruning. This is a hardy rose with a flashy smile and a cruel streak. It smokes unfiltered cigarettes.

A couple of weeks ago, to appease it, I got it a new, larger trellis. Installing it involved extracting the rose’s treacherous canes from the old one and weaving them through the new one.

Local sales of Band-Aids went through the roof.

This rose sends out canes that are six or eight feet long and studded with barracuda teeth. Each cane is stiff near the base, making it hard to bend. So, should I get pricked by a thorn (which I will) and flinch, the cane will spring out of my grasp and, with the sound of a whip snapping, grab me by the ankle or neck. In my flailing to escape, I will catch the unwelcome attention of any number of other canes, until I’m caught like a fly in a spider web.

And this rose has other dirty tricks. For example, once a thorn has punctured the pad of my thumb and left a gaping, painful hole, the rose will purposely stick other thorns in that same hole every time I touch a stem.

“Wear gloves,” you say. Sometimes I do. It’s almost worse. The thorns, after driving themselves into my flesh, often detach from the cane, magically passing through the glove material in the process. This leaves me with a thorn embedded in my finger, but inside the glove where I can neither see it nor remove it. (I can, however, locate it without taking off the glove by watching for the growing blood stain.)

On the day I put in the new trellis, I spent over an hour pleading with the canes and explaining (Ow!) why they should (Ow!) bend ever so gently (Ow!) this way (Ow!) or that (Ow! Ow! Ow!). It was a slow and fraught process, but in the end, I managed to train every cane through the trellis. To say that I won, however, would be to ignore the wounds that left me looking like I had tried to put a Halloween costume on a bobcat.

And the rose wasn’t done with me. This past Sunday, I went out to clean up the rest of the garden. Bending down to dig out a weed, I apparently invaded the rose’s personal space. Out of nowhere, a cane shot out and grabbed me by the hair. (Don’t worry; I freed myself before nightfall. And the bald spot hardly shows.)

In a couple of months, of course, the rose will bloom, and in its glorious fuchsia display I’ll forget how much it hates me. But only for a few weeks.

Later in the summer, during one of my two or three fleeting attempts to weed the garden, the rose will get me again. Feeling constrained, it’ll sneak out some new canes — not up in the air where I can see them, mind you, but along the ground. Five feet away from the trellis, I’ll reach down to pull out a handful of my primary crop, ground ivy, and instead I’ll firmly latch onto a thorn-studded cane. A lively scene of agony and bloodshed will ensue, wherein I will regale passing bicyclists with language nothing like what the poets of old would have come up with.

Take Ralph Waldo Emerson. He once said, “There is simply the rose; it is perfect in every moment of its existence.”     

Ten dollars says that man had a hired gardener.


Rare movie night was a real 'beauty'

Last weekend, I went to the movies.

This may not sound like a big deal, but I haven’t seen a movie in a theater since summer 2011, when I watched “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2” in 3-D.

I had to Google the release date, but I’ll never forget the movie because it’s when I discovered that 3-D glasses give me the feeling that someone is driving a 16-penny spike into my forehead, and because, not being a huge Harry Potter aficionado, I didn’t figure out what a “horcrux” was until the climax of the movie. (In retrospect, it all would have made more sense if I’d known earlier.)

So what, you might ask, would get me to a theater for the first time in six years? It would have to be something truly compelling to make me leave home; farmers pull calves with less effort than it takes my husband to get me out of the house, even after roping my legs and dragging me with a winch. What movie could possibly do the trick?

It was “Beauty and the Beast.”

Why not? I loved the animated version that was around when the kids were little. I like musicals. I like comedy. I like romance. I like happy endings. I like talking furniture. And I especially like escapism.

Go on and rave about how wonderful “12 Years a Slave” was, but I ask you: Were there any Busby Berkeley-style dance numbers in it? I’m guessing not, but then I didn’t see it; I took a pass after reading a review that praised it for being “unflinchingly brutal.” Call me a sissy, but I don’t consider that a selling point.

Still, “Beauty and the Beast” touched me deeply. Love between father and daughter, loss of a loved one, unrequited love, raw vulnerability, the special love between a candelabrum and a feather duster — who among us can’t empathize? I mean, no, the movie wasn’t unflinchingly brutal, in the sense that no one got flogged half to death, but the knick-knacks did face some dicey moments when the castle got stormed.

The poignancy of the plot, interspersed with dazzling musical numbers, comic moments and action scenes, had me alternating between crying and laughing so often that tears streamed down my face for most of the movie. If you were in the theater for the Sunday matinee, you might have heard me, about halfway back on the left side, sniffling and wailing softly while dabbing at my cheeks with a piece of popcorn.

By the climax of the movie, my emotions got the best of me. At the critical do-or-die moment, I found myself gnawing on my seat upholstery to avoid bursting out in sobs. I don’t know if it was the surround sound, the large screen, the swirl of emotions, or the brilliant, dynamic, choreographed action of the movie itself, but I haven’t been moved like that since — well, probably since Harry Potter came back to life and I suddenly understood what a horcrux was (if you look closely, you can still see my six-year-old teeth marks on the armrest at the end of the fourth row).

I’m no movie critic, so if you’re hoping for an analysis of “Beauty and the Beast” — the music, the CGI, how it compares to the 1991 version, whether the wardrobe was overacting — you won’t find it from me. I was too drawn in by the exquisite scenery, the pace and the classic “beast meets girl, beast loses girl,” etc., story line to give it a critical eye.

In fact, I have only one complaint: I liked the beast better than the prince. Sure, he was a little rough around the edges, what with the fur and horns and bad table manners and all, but I still found him more mysterious and attractive than the milquetoast tween heartthrob he eventually — spoiler alert — turned into. That probably says more about my taste in men than about the movie itself, but if you’ve met my husband, it shouldn’t come as a surprise.

A week later, I’m still feeling exhilarated by “Beauty and the Beast,” but I’m in no rush to go to the movies again. It might be another six years or so before a film grabs my attention like this one.

That’s a good thing. I’m going to need that much time to emotionally prepare for the experience.