A Recipe for Unperishing Joy

This is a good recipe, and not more difficult to follow than most of those in cook-books.

First, you must take a low, wide-mouthed Tibetan bowl of brass, with half-burnished dragons crowding its dark flare. You may have to go via Bombay, Rawal-Pindi, Cashmere, and Ladock to get one, journeying till you meet hairy travelers leading strings of yaks laden with turquoise and wool. Likely they will appear suddenly on a narrow road around the side of a Himalayan mountain, which rises above your road stark a thousand feet and falls away sheer beneath it, pineclad, down to a glacial river roaring itself sea-green and foamy against the unconquerable boulders in its gorge.

Next, you must have the memory of a visit to England in September, of London in fog always, and each fog hiding, and then mistily revealing, everywhere, ‘Michaelmas daisies,’ purple and rose and amethyst-colored, and somewhere red roofs shining wet; everywhere Michaelmas daisies, in flowerbooths on each corner, all Londoners carrying bunches of them indefinitely, dining-rooms full of them, Trafalgar Square and Oxford gardens haunted by them; and through these dreams of color, the eyes of the kindest friends in the world smiling toward you.

Then, you must get an Illinois prairie garden in which to sing the high praises of manure, a Ford, and a spade. And year by year diligently must you search out, in your September sunshine, the fog-haunting wild asters of London. You are apt to find them along bad roads, where live those shiftless farmers who will not cut down their roadside ’weeds.’ Then you carry them home to your garden and, Adam-like, create their names. (The prosaic, who buy them all named, from catalogues, will not be able to follow this recipe.) We ourselves, one day, on a little hill-top, in thin, flowing gold sunlight, found one so rarely faint pink that we dubbed it ’Pinkie-Pearlie,’ the nickname of a college chum who has the most exquisitely tinted skin. The royal purple one, which we dug up the very hour our favorite cousin was rescued from a burning Greek ship in mid-ocean — this one, because it was regal and gracious, we call for the dearest dean, Miss Dudley. ‘Dream’ we name the shadowy lavender one, wishing its elusiveness might rarefy the whole border.

Now comes the critical moment. Of each of these three kinds you take a perfect spray, gathering them where you can smell the grapes ripening. As you gather them, you cause a flutter of yellow and white butterfly wings, like the flutter of water on the pool where the goldfish play. Of six other sorts also you take a well-spread branch, including the jolly rose one, like the common rose-colored chrysanthemum, the amethyst one with butter-colored eyes, and the shaggy mauve one, whose petals, turning over, are nearly white. Then, in the Tibetan bowl you put one spray of Dream and one long sparse stalk of lightest blue larkspur, with gray under-sides. Below this you put faint pinks, then darker and darker ones till you come to the common rose one. Near this, at one side, you put a huge dull old-rose zinnia, brown-centred, which gathers the light and holds it, gleaming. On the other side, you put a big flatheaded cluster of Sedum spectabile, a pink-fringed, almond-colored spot. Below this, you arrange, without crowding their delicate spaciousness, the more deeply purple ones. Among the Miss Dudleys you put a spray of Dream, to droop over the brushing sides of dragons. Next you find the exact spot for a zinnia of sulphur color edged with purple, unsightly in the garden, but here shining like a jewel in its colorful setting. Last of all, among the rosy pink flowerlets, you add a stalk of pale blue larkspur buds.

Now, you carry this to the door of the room where your sister chances to be ill for a day. You say, ‘Shut your eyes, and don’t open them till I say when.’ When she sees it, she cries, ‘Oh, oh! The immortal bouquet!’

And you sit down by her, rising continually to turn the bowl a bit. You talk of all the friends who would love it. You go over the season’s events, its bouquets, since the first jonquil and tiny purple iris made a splashing place in a great clear bowl, for a little yellow bird. You give this one the prize.

When you leave it, to get the potatoes ready for dinner, it calls you back. The whole afternoon you play with it — in full sunlight, or with curtains drawn. It goes before your eyes when you go out to gather the eggs. You put it on the supper-table, and the salad is delicious. The boys, seeing it, exclaim, ‘Some little bush, auntie!’ You dream of it by night. And when at last, before its freshness grows even a little bit dim, you throw it into the fire, you do it gayly. You know that, among the bouquets which have haunted you from childhood, this one endures most loved. ‘Never mind, you dear,’ you say; ‘as long as my memory lasts, you last.’ And you shut down the stove-lid in peace.

I urge you to try this, avoiding substitutes.