Thursday, May 15, 2014

Wooden Flowers on the Street

On the street yesterday, an old man was selling wooden roses.
"Mil pesos por flor!  Escoje tu favorita!"  (A thousand pesos (2 dollars) for a flower!  Pick your favorite!)
Painted all the colors that roses come in, they were nestled in a nest of real rose leaves, so cunningly, cleverly painted and tinted that they were indistinguishable from real flowers.
"Mil pesos por flor - they never fade!"

When we sailed into Pucon on our first trip into town for groceries, we found ourselves braking abruptly on the outskirts of town - enchanted by booths selling flowers-   flowers that should have been buds so early in the spring - on bushes just starting to green.  There were full-blown summer roses, daliahs in pink and peach and yellow and red and carnations the size of my open hand.

Climbing out of the car, we investigated.  The flowers were made from shaved wood, gathered and furled around long wooden stakes and sunk into the base of hothouse rose bushes, so that the flowers appeared to grow together out of greenery that appropriate to absolutely none of them.
The flowers are made from mimbre wood.  A plant of the wicker family, mimbre has a thick, whippy stem and grown along the banks of waterways - everywhere, then, in this part of the country. The wood is shaved in spirals, using a device that resembles a large pencil sharpener, and the shavings are glued in an outward-facing spiral around a daisy-like wooden base. 

At the back of the booths,  craftswoman  were painting the flowers – dabbing and tinting and splattering so cunningly and so cleverly that the wooden toys were indistinguishable from real flowers.  We wandered from booth to booth, becoming familiar with the different  flowers and techniques, noting the difference from worker to worker- this woman was masterful with dahlias, another crafted carnations that  could have stood undiscovered  in a bouquet of living flowers, that one had perfected the deep, gleaming tint of a blood-red rose -

We bought a bouquet of daliahs – mounted on 28 inch wooden stems - to bring home with us.
            "How are we going to get these home?"  Mr Tabubil said.  "They're so terribly delicate. They won't last the drive back to Temuco, let alone a plane flight."
The flower lady tugged the flower heads away from their stems, and sank them among exelsior and foam peanuts in a rather staggering array of boxes.
            "Secure." She said to us.  And sniffed.  "You think you're the first tourists to buy a flower?"
The rather-spear-like stems, she tied up  with a strip of masking tape around their middles and handed them to us, just like that.
            "Which leaves us with another problem."  Mr Tabubil said, under his breath.  "Four extra pieces of hand luggage and an armful of sharp pointy sticks.  We are never getting this lot onto the plane."
But to our surprise, we did.

Temuco airport was far too small and laid back to give any particular damn about what or how much of anything its passengers were bringing through the x-ray machine.  Cooler chests?  Pastry Boxes?  Armfuls of of gift-wrapped sausages?  A gross of nintendo platforms and bags of spare batteries?  It was Christmas day.  A few extra boxes and an armload of dangerously spikey sticks weren't worth raising an eyebrow over. We flew home to Santiago, comfortably squashed among the luggage of Temucan grandparents flying to the capital for Christmas dinner with their grandchildren, paper crinkling in their pockets, and coils of ribbon spilling out of the luggage compartments above our heads.  A box or two of flowers seemed just the right sort of extra luggage for that sort of day.  

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