Thinking about the Flowers

Thinking about the Flowers

Photograph by Chip Kalback 

Written by Doug Schnitzspahn 

I keep thinking about the flowers. The Boulder, Colorado, King Soopers has a beautiful selection of cut flowers and every time I went in there, especially in these days of fear, and pandemic, and masks, I would buy an arrangement for my wife. Some people only buy their spouses flowers rarely, or out of guilt, but, for me, they were a simple reaffirmation of love, a reminder that life is a slog but there’s still beauty here, and you still mean the world to me even if we barely have time to talk between deadlines and filling out forms to register kids for summer camps. Love, real love is this, and no matter how unromantic that may seem, it's the thing we value most. My family were florists and I know well that even in our world of instant social media communication, flowers endure as a symbol of love and beginning and farewell, of speaking when we don't' have the words to match the enormity of the emotion. They are enduring (and, yes, so cliched) because they are so momentary, like us, so fragile. King Soopers has (had?) a beautiful selection of cut flowers. Right now, I am thinking of the workers there arranging them, how we never even spoke. Or a fellow customer a few weeks ago, the woman in wheelchair who asked my advice on what selection to buy.


Last  week, I wrote a piece for Mountain Gazette about the faults and glories and most of all outside perceptions of my town Boulder (agreed, it's not a little mountain town). I admit I thought myself very clever. Now, it all feels quite cheap. It was painful enough to look at it before to be honest. Now, I wish it didn’t exist. Ten people are dead. A man walked into the grocery store down the block with an assault rifle and opened fire. My daughter was considering going to the store right around the time this happened. I easily could have been there, checking out, as I often am, moving through the normal, mundane necessities of life. I fear I know those who were not so randomly lucky. Even writing these words feels as if I am simply going through the motions of… what? grief? I know that life and survival are chance when it comes down to it, though a chance we can improve through our actions and choices. (This is why some of us actually feel safer in the mountains, where we can control the variables in a way we cannot when it comes to the hateful random actions of our fellow human beings.) 


It’s a mistake to try to write about this now. I still don’t understand it. These emotions are too big and basic for the neat little package of words.


So I will go back to the flowers. Because they always stood out to me in this fairly conventional corporate super market—living things, un-bottled, un-processed, un-branded, on their own among aisles of canned sustenance. They are not food. They differ from the produce, which, even if it’s as unnecessary as endives or enoki mushrooms, still serves to sustain us. I wish I could say more about the tragedy, but doing so right now feels obscene. I will focus on the flowers, and give in to the absolute loss of those who died and those who lost them. And here at my house, just blocks away from the swat teams and the dead, there are crocuses pushing through the wet snow of a spring storm. They will be gone in a month. This grief will not.


Editor's note: All of us at Mountain Gazette extend our deepest sympathies to the Boulder community. But we do not wish for these words to be hollow. How can we help? Email us at We'll use our platform to shine a light on ways our community can help out Boulder, Colorado. When in doubt, go higher.