Mid-summer. Clear skies, warm days. With the ample spring and early summer rain, the nearby fields exude lush green. The roadsides near our country home burgeon with grasses, ivy (poison and otherwise), and a profusion of wildflowers: blue cornflowers, white Queen Anne’s lace, mulberry milkweed, periwinkle harebell, yellow black-eyed susans. Since I did not inherit my father’s talented green thumb, I get my gardening fix walking along our road, admiring the flamboyant procession of colour and form displayed by these flowering weeds.
I once cut some cornflowers for a bouquet, hoping to transpose their pure blue from the roadside to my kitchen counter. Within an hour, the flowers faded to a pale, insipid pink. Dad always cautioned against picking wildflowers: “They won’t last,” he warned, and, as I found out with the cornflowers, he was right.
I think there’s a fine justice in that. Not every small natural thing can, or should, be bent to our will, even on the pretext of appreciating beauty.
Betsy Scholl’s poem Wildflowers celebrates the tenacity of wildflowers, their ability to endure hardship, their innate survival force, their wisdom in being ordinary. The lines, “the way they stand/ as if anonymous, knowing themselves/ to be the blur passersby barely see,” remind me to rest content in the fullness of my ordinary self, to delight in hidden wildness.
And so, as the roadsides bloom abundantly, I rejoice in the ‘wild’ in ‘wildflower’. I leave the cornflowers in place, and in peace.
And it was commanded them that they should not hurt the grass of the earth, neither any green thing…Revelation 9:4
Consider the way they shudder in the aftermath
of coal trucks, farm trucks, the fast red car,
the way they sway in the backwind
of passing’s vacuum, bending into the void,
the small rustle of what’s left in the wake,
whatever is said on the edge of our leaving —
chicory, ironweed, aster, thistle, Joe-pye,
poorest of the poor — the way they stand
as if anonymous, knowing themselves
to be the blur passersby barely see,
the way they disappear when winter storms in,
and then come crowding back in spring,
the ground loving them the way it does not
love the golf course with its sleek chemical green —
coreopsis, milkweed, bittersweet, goldenrod,
sumac, wild carrot —
the way they bow to the passing waves
that release their seeds, needing only a little wind
to lift them across the field, a little rain,
a small crack in the hardpan to grow,
to possess the earth, as scripture says
they will, don’t worry.