Posted by: Kathryn Hulick | February 26, 2008

Laughing Flowers

Washington, DC.  October 20, 2007.

“The earth laughs in flowers” — Ralph Waldo Emerson

National Cathedral Gazebo

The garden was full of rooms, but only one made flowers laugh.  When the light bent through the old stone windows just right, and the summer air hummed with the beating of hundreds of tiny insect wings, Katya could smell the pink blossoms’ joy.  They leaned up close against the open room, or crawled through the windows, pressing their petals against the cool stone and sending up plumes of scented happiness.

Katya liked to talk to them.

“If they catch me here one more time, I’ll be sleeping in the stable all next week.  Rod says this is a sacred space and I told him I know, that’s why I go there, but he said servants aren’t allowed, especially not girls, and he doesn’t want to punish anyone but he’ll have to make an example out of me if I don’t obey” The flowers tilted in a breeze, and sent up a flavor of sorrow.

“I know, I know.  I’ll come back, I promise.  I tried to tell Rod about you but he says I’d better watch my tongue.  There’s no such thing as talking flowers.  Or laughing rooms.  I said no, it’s a talking room and laughing flowers, and he nearly took my head off.  I was too fast for him, though.  Dashed right out of that kitchen and straight out here before he knew what happened.”

Katya inhaled the air.  The scent of sorrow still lingered, but it would soon be overcome by a new smell.  The light was brightening to yellow and the laughter inside the tiny flowers was just waiting to be released.  Katya huddled in the corner, knees tight against her chest, her dark green skirt making a tent around her bare feet.  She always sat in this same corner, where the flowers cascaded over the windowsill and tickled against her ears and forehead.

She could smell their feelings from anywhere in the stone room, but when they touched her the sensation was even more electrifying.

No one else seemed to notice.  Katya had watched the priests drone their way through the rooms of the garden, crushing flowers underfoot like they were troublesome pests, never once stopping to inhale and listen.  After a year or so, as she got taller and stronger and outgrew the clothes she’d been wearing when she wandered into this place as a starving orphan, she began to realize that the priests were deaf to the flowers’ laughter.

And so were the other servants.  And the gardeners.  And the novices.  In fact, the only person who even believed in Katya’s flowers was a five-year-old boy who’d arrived in much the same shape Katya had, and worshipped her because she was the first person to ever give him a meal he didn’t have to fight for.

But he couldn’t hear the flowers.

As the yellow light filled the corners of the floor and painted the stones in cream and peach, Katya held her breath until she couldn’t stand it anymore, then slowly, slowly, took in air through her nostrils.

Laughter!  The air was full of it!  In every molecule, every glimmer of scent.  Katya couldn’t help herself.  She laughed, too–short, crisp, birdlike-chirps of laughter that sent the flowers near her face bouncing around.

“What’s this?”

The voice boomed from all around, echoing in the small chamber.  Katya’s laughter stopped.  She’d been caught.



  1. Nice blog. Enjoyed going through it. Keep it up the good work. Cheers 🙂

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