An Artful Disorder: Symmetry is for Faces not Vases!

As I was arranging a bunch of flowers tonight, the following passage came to mind:

There was really no point trying to arrange wild flowers. They had tumbled into their own symmetry, and it was certainly true that too even a distribution between the irises and the rose-bay willow-herb ruined the effect. She made some minutes making adjustments in order to achieve a natural chaotic look. While she did so she wondered about going out to Robbie.

These are the thoughts of Cecilia in Atonement, a beautifully written novel – which has also been adapted into a gorgeous film, as you probably know – by Ian McEwan. A novel overflowing with evocative description and vivid characterisation.

As I arranged my flowers I thought of symmetry, life past and future, that which is determined and a man I long to see. I thought of my life. My day. My tomorrow.

Like Cecilia, I have never liked symmetry – except for in a face. It’s far too ordered, predictable and balanced. It’s so balanced it makes me feel…well, unbalanced. If I see something symmetrical I have to fight the strongest urge not to rearrange it. Unless it is a bunch of flowers, then nothing can hold me back!

The flowers fell into a unsettling symmetry before me tonight and as I swiftly rearranged them I wondered at my abhorrence of that which is uniform because, you know, it extends to more than just floral arrangements. I have a terrible feeling that the way I like my flowers indicates some deeper darker truth about who I am, what I think and how I want to live: I think I’m pretty much inherently rebellious. But for now all I want to say is, Cecilia is right: symmetry is for faces not vases. What do you think?

Btw, have you read Atonement?! Every word is soooo very delicious!

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6 Responses to “An Artful Disorder: Symmetry is for Faces not Vases!”

  1. kim from hiraeth Says:

    I haven’t read Atonement, but I’ve added it to my “must read” list on your recommendation.

    I am a person who naturally prefers symmetry. I love the look of rambling, natural gardens, but even when I try my best to plant randomly–upon further review I always discern a pattern or a symmetry in all that I do.

    It’s in my nature. And I worry about MY nature, as you do. I worry that this characteristic of mine that desires symmetry and order is as rebellious as your desire to “mess things up!” In both instances, I think, we desire control. In this we are human and in this we are sinful.

    Praise be to God who is taming our fallen natures through Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit.

    I do not think we will rearrange anything in Heaven.

    : D

  2. Rebecca Says:

    Wildlfowers should be wild and disordered, yes.
    I haven’t read Atonement! I did just read On Chesil Beach and enjoyed it very much, though.

  3. Ellen Says:

    I haven’t read Atonement or seen the movie. Looks very interesting. I like wild bunches of flowers to be wild and I love gardens that aren’t symmetrical. I do appreciate symmetry in my life though to a point. I have a hard time if I’m scattered about and not balanced in some way…

  4. Islandsparrow Says:

    I just requested Atonement from the library – I love books with delicious words – thanks for the recommendation!

    I’m afraid I’m somewhat guilty of wanting order – that’s probably why I don’t like my curly hair and why I love my new Sedu straightener!! But I can feel a little rebellion rise up occasionally too – because I dislike a stifled feeling. I love creativity and I love beautiful order – I don’t like dullness, sameness or rigidity. Does this make sense?

  5. kim from hiraeth Says:

    I understand you perfectly, Kathie. I like your last sentence: I don’t like dullness, sameness or rigidity, either!

  6. missmellifluous Says:

    Oh wow! So many new Atonement readers! Yay! We should have a book club!

    It is interesting, Kim, that you think your desire for order as sinful as my desire for disorder. You’ve got me thinking. Perhaps it is about control.

    I can also identify with Ellen’s & Islandsparrow’s desire for balance and order in some places. And you know, I think what I most appreciate about literature is when it is so finely crafted and writing is so masterful that it is well balanced and ordered yet still captures that unbridled intensity of feeling I see in a vase of wild flowers. Is that a strange paradox? That language must be well ordered, balanced and controlled to capture the sense of freedom and delight in the world, people and emotions?

    I love that we all appreciate a good wild garden though! 🙂
    It’s good to be ‘chatting’ to you all again too! =D

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