Life-Giving Flowers

Yes, flowers are uplifting, but did you know they are life-giving?  

I know it because Grandma Lee said so.  And I know it because the bees buzzed it in my ear.  And well, it’s a scientific fact.  Perhaps we should start with that.

In fact, about one-third of the human diet is derived from insect-pollinated plants, and honey bees are responsible for 80 percent of this pollination.

Allow me to unpack that statement.  When you hear the word “pollination,” it is referring to the process by which a pollinator, most commonly a honeybee, magically transforms a flower into a fruit/vegetable. 

Okay there I go again, it’s not magic.  It’s science.  But for me, it’s the same!  The reality is pollination begins with the flower. 

According to Wikipedia:

Pollination is the process by which pollen is transferred to the female reproductive organs of a plant, thereby enabling fertilization to take place.

For the process of pollination to be successful, a pollen grain produced by the anther, the male part of a flower, must be transferred to a stigma, the female part of the flower, of a plant of the same species. 

With pollination, a flower becomes a seed, which grows into a fruit or vegetable which sustains life for humans. Yes, even the non-vegetarian humans are sustained by flowers. After all, what do you think cattle and pork eat? That’s right, plants & flowers like clover, alfalfa and the like. 

Flowers, are life-giving.  They are the source for the food we eat, made possible by pollination. They are the essence of medicinal tinctures that heal our skin and bodies.  And, they are a life-giving source of joy; joy that sustains life. Take it from one who knows, Grandma Lee. 

On any given day, you can find Grandma sitting under the plumeria tree in the empty lot that occupies the space between her house and mine.  Grandma Lee is beloved by the entire neighborhood, her children, grandchildren (biological and otherwise), the mailman, dogs, cats and the tourists who are greeted with her warm aloha. Anyone that knows her will agree— Grandma Lee keeps a sharp eye on her garden, especially the flowers. 

Grandma Lee recently celebrated her 96th birthday.  I asked her what her secret was to living a long, happy abundant life.  She chuckled, “you’re looking at it! …Being outside in nature is what keeps me going. These flowers are more valuable than you may know.”

Sidenote-- As a beekeeper for Honey Girl Organics, I know full-well how critical flowers are; as explained earlier, without the pollination of flowers, our food supply would be greatly diminished. Not only that, flowers are the only food source for honeybees; their entire diet consists of nectar and pollen, found in the heart of flowers. Honey Girl Organics skin care products are made with the honey, beeswax, and propolis produced from these vital nectars and pollen. Additionally, the essential oils created by the distillation of volatile aromatic compounds in flowers are integral ingredients in Honey Girl Organics skincare.

…Spoken like a true Haole!  ;)

So yes, though I consider myself fairly knowledgeable on the value of flowers, what I learned from Grandma Lee that day in the garden was the deeper life-giving quality of flowers. 

Grandma Lee went on to explain how “pua” means flower in Hawaiian, and “keni keni” quite literally “means money.” With a sparkle in her eyes, she leaned over and told me how the Puakenikeni is the most prized flower of Hawaiians. 

So it just made sense that when I asked for Grandma Lee’s expert help on making a lei for my friend’s birthday, though the plumeria was in full bloom, she insisted on using the puakenikeni. 

She had her bucket ready and told me to pick high and she’d get the rest.  Like the student of a great sage, I dutifully followed her direction. I couldn’t help but notice, she gathered every flower within her reach. 

When the bucket was full, Grandma Lee beckoned me to sit under the plumeria tree with her. I was to cut off the bottom of the flower while she strung the flowers with needle and thread.  She told me that back in the day, “we never used a needle though.  A thin straight stick was good.” 

I laughed at myself because I could barely keep up with her— Grandma Lee may take 15 minutes to walk across the street, but man, when it comes to stringing flowers on a lei—  she is speedy! 

I learned so many helpful hints along the way, like how I should make a generous cut, so mostly the crown of the flower is used.  And, to gently push the flowers together on the string, to make for a fuller lei.

As with all my visits with Grandma Lee, she shared some of her stories of the bygone era. That day I learned that her mom was a midwife and her father was a cook for the Royal Hawaiian Family.  I asked what he would cook for them.  I had to laugh when she matter-of-factly responded, “American Food.”

She also told me about the days when the North Shore was country, and “there were no good roads to the hospital, so when the nice police officers would get a call about a pregnant mom about to give birth, before coming to their aid, they would always come get me. I knew just what to do from watching my mom. Yes, I delivered many babies.  Now they’re all grown up. About your age you know.”

She handed me the lei to tie a knot at the end, and woosh!  All the flowers fell to the grass. “No problem, just get that stick over there and tie it to the bottom so the flowers don’t fall off she said.”  In a matter of minutes, that lei was complete once again.  I was delighted!  Her response?  “Too short.”  “Oh!”  I exclaimed. She assured me there were plenty of flowers to make another second longer lei. I was relieved.  Happy to have a little more time with Grandma Lee and the flowers.  After all, this is what life is all about. 

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