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Monday, July 23, 2012

Book Review: The Language of Flowers

My Wise Woman friend was reading "The Language of Flowers" by Vanessa Diffenbaugh when we first started talking about moss. I borrowed the book from the library, but I will be buying my own copy.  I loved it!

Victoria, the main character in this novel is a foster child and by all accounts would have been labeled "difficult", at best, throughout her childhood. Having been shuffled from bad to worse situations, Victoria doesn't have strong roots to guide her growth. She builds a pretty tough shell of independence and focuses on basic survival by sealing herself off from others. When we first meet Victoria she has just turned 18, is therefore, no longer "within the system" and is homeless living in the park. None of this particularly bothers her. The glimpse we have of Victoria's soul, is a strong connection with nature- in particular flowers. Something that was developed as the result of the one home where she really did find love and what might have been some initial  "root structure".

This novel is about building a Root Chakra when you have no real model to begin with.  It's about starting from scratch.  That never really occurred to me before, having come from some pretty strong roots and having been nurtured through my childhood. When you have good roots, you take them for granted. By times, you maybe even find them constricting. It can be frustrating to try and branch out in a different direction. But what if you're starting from nothing?  Hmm...

Vanessa Diffenbaugh skillfully takes the reader back and forth between Victoria's present condition and her childhood.  It's through this reminiscing that we understand how Victoria has learned to communicate with self and others through flowers. Flowers have been used to communicate entire messages from love to hate and everything in between.

I guess any time people have had to "start from scratch", one of the first things they do is create a language. And that's what Victoria does.  But in order to be able to communicate with someone else you have to make sure you both understand the same language. Victoria creates a dictionary of flowers to enhance her ability to communicate and to share her gifts. This dictionary is included in the book, and on Vanessa Diffenbaugh's website  as well

Not all Victoria's dictionary definitions are a match for the flower definitions and meanings I've read in other books. They don't really match with the flower definitions from Dr. Bach, although some aren't really far off. But this doesn't really matter. That's part of building your roots. You create what works for you and you don't necessarily copy other people's "stuff".  But if you want any one else to understand, you're going to have to share a bit of yourself and your internal dictionary. Hmm.....

Victoria's life isn't easy and one gets the sense that it's never going to be exactly "easy" or without some angst. But that's what true growth is about. It's about making mistakes, doing things over, letting go of some things, and attaching to others. Victoria really does build herself from the ground up and in doing so she shares her gifts and provides a root structure that others can branch out from. Pretty amazing stuff to acheive in one lifetime.

In my opinion, Vanessa Diffenbaugh is really writing from the heart.  She understands the life that some kids without roots have to go through I think. She's been able to share that world in a way that makes an impression on me. While I can't truly feel it, I have more awareness now, and perhaps I have a better idea of what I don't know. Maybe it will help me listen better to my "rootless friends" without thinking I understand something I can't.

Diffenbaugh didn't stop at the end of the book.  She has created a network called the Camellia Network.  In Victoria's Dictionary, Camellia means "my destiny is in your hands". This network is designed to provide support for youth transitioning from foster care to independence.

Even if we don't share common roots, it seems we all are connected through the soil we are planted in and we owe it to each other to help provide structure and encourage growth. 

Here's to independent growth!

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