After a peaceful yet physically demanding afternoon at the Nan Lian Gardens & Chi Lin Nunnery, then trecking up to see the 10,000 Buddhas Monastery, I was so wrecked that I decided TODAY I was finally going to get a massage for my achy lower back and shoulder muscles. I showered, changed and put my clothes in the laundry before heading out to find the spa a friend recommended here in Wan Chai. As I’ve developed an appreciation for walking on the second level of town from our building to the MTR entrance, I meandered through the warren of footbridges connecting the buildings until I arrived at exit A3 near Thompson Street down below where I anticipated finding the spa. The thing is, strolling down the back road I tried to follow the building numbers and eventually saw a sign that said “MASSAGE” in neon, but the entrance to the building looked much more seedy than I would have liked. So I stood for a moment contemplating and decided with disappointment not to go in.
Totally bummed, I crossed the street, still looking back at the dodgy building entrance trying to determine if that was the only possible “spa” or massage parlor in that block. Not watching where I was going, I literally stumbled over a bouquet of flowers on the curb. Once I looked up, I realized that there had to have been six to eight, maybe more, huge floral arrangements spanning the length of a few storefronts but on the curb without any fanfare or interest of the people walking up and down the block.
I looked at the flowers to make sure they were real and in good condition, and I realized that not only were they in great condition, but many were incredibly fragrant… Stargazers, white lilies, roses, gerber daisies and all types of other desirable flowers from some garden far from Wan Chai. Just laying out… on the sidewalk. I walked past, to see if they belonged to anyone. And walked back the other direction to a woman I saw taking a few stems out to collect for herself. “Are these flowers out for the garbage?” I asked? Not entirely sure she understood my question, I inquired again, “Rubbish??” while pointing to the display on the ground. (Since I don’t know the Cantonese word for “trash” I figured maybe the British version would work!) She nodded and pointed to the arrangements as if to say, Take some!
So… I began with handpicking about six white and pink lilies, the ones I thought were most fragrant. I still wasn’t sure I should be taking them, even though they were clearly out on the street at 7p Sunday evening. Finally, a gentleman stepped out of a restaurant door nearest to me. “Excuse me, are these flowers out for the garbage?” He nodded, “Yes, I think so. The company on the fifth floor is done with them and it’s late, so I think you can take them.” TAKE THEM!!! There were so many that I couldn’t have taken all of them even if I wanted to… “So, I can take this whole arrangement??” I said pointing to one full of pink stargazers and gerbers. “Yes, if you want to carry it with you.” The arrangement sat in a basket that could not be seen without fishing through all of the flowers and greenery. I stuck my hand in to find the handle and heaved it up, balancing the other bouquet I’d made in my left hand with my purse and phone. “You’re going to carry all of this???” he asked skeptically! “Yep, matterfact, can you take my picture?”
He snapped the photo, and helped me arrange my phone, purse, handheld bouquet and gigantic basket so that I could begin my 15 minute trek back home, having all but forgotten about my muscle aches and lack of success in finding a massage. It was still quite hot out, even after sun down, and within five minutes of walking, first up the escalator, across the footbridge of Lockart, Hennessy, and Jaffe then down the stairs towards Steward Road, there was a torrential downpour of sweat coming from my forehead and down the front of my face and chest. So much so I could not see from the water in my eyes, nor could I put the bouquets down to find napkins and wipe my face. But I forged ahead, stopping every few minutes to shift the flowers, smiling at people looking at me as if I were crazy… Imagine me, nearly six foot African (American) woman, with dreads in a bun, pouring sweat over her pink dress, carrying an arrangement and bouquet that clearly should be delivered via refrigerated truck! But I kept going until I got to the lobby of my hotel.
The front desk attendant gasped, “What is this??!?!?! Where did you get all of these??” I told her that I’d found them, and asked if she would like any. She was so surprised but was happy to take the white lilies for herself and one of the cleaning women in the lobby. I had already decided that I wanted to gift some of the flowers to my colleagues, so I went up to my floor and started knocking on doors as the “Flower Fairy!”… Only a few of them were home when I arrived, so I was left with the bulk of the flowers to bring into my room and try my hand at floral “re-arrangment”, which I always love!!!
I immediately went for the extra wine bottles that I keep to store drinking water in. I easily have five wine bottles that I reuse, and would have more if I hadn’t thrown out the ones I drank during my first couple of weeks here. (My brother once said if I ever had a motorcycle club, we’d be called the Poetic Winos!) The largest of the bottles I stored all of the remaining lilies in, thankful that at least eight of them have yet to bloom. Next I filled up the bottle that a colleague gave me earlier today after a long conversation about how I loved its shape and would definitely make use of it, and I made a home for the two lily pads. Next I had to figure out what to do with the thirty or so gerber daisies, so I grabbed another wine bottle along with smaller glass and plastic cups I have laying around. You should’ve seen me in flower cutting heaven while Mama’s Gun played in the background, making sure each stem was just right. Once I realized that I wouldn’t be able to contain all of the flowers in a “vase”, I arranged the remaining ones into a little arc display on my glass table over my Chinese fan until I could reach colleagues to come and take some.
Once every flower was designated, I decided to leave the green leafy basket as a “potted plant” on my floor. I took a palm and few branches and placed them in a used Minute Maid bottle off of which I took the wrapper. And when I was done, I lit some incense and sat back to take in my little zen corner. In one regard, I can’t believe that I received all of these flowers for free when I was going out to look for a massage. But in another regard, I can totally believe it.
For one, I believe in giving people their flowers before they have died. You can send flowers to my funeral, by all means, but I will get so much more gratification if I receive them while I am alive! Plus I’d like to believe that I have a whole lot of years left among the living to receive all types of floral goodness. I don’t get gifted flowers as often as I’d like, though for my 35th birthday in April, my parents, brother and a few friends made sure I had roses to last for weeks. When I arrived in HK last month, I kept saying my room needed some vibe, and that I should definitely get flowers, but never got around to finding a florist. I really wanted some, though. So, I’d like to think that I thought these free flowers into being! Or, even better, God knew the desires of my heart, regarding flowers for my room, and made sure I finally got some! I mean, really… I literally stumbled upon hundreds of flowers for the taking. I anticipate they’ll stay fresh for the upcoming week as well, especially since many of them haven’t even bloomed yet. And best believe, next Sunday evening, I will be down on Thompson to see if they’ve thrown out any more bouquets to bring home… What is that saying about trash and treasure??? Fresh flowers are ALWAYS a treasure!