Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Wacky, Wondrous, Whatever, What If Wednesday #13

In our little country town, there is a group of women who get together on Monday evenings. This past Monday, we met at the home of one of our fellow companions, to clear out her flower bed. This sweet woman, whose husband crossed over earlier in the year, just celebrated her 92nd birthday. She’s quite spry and energetic but the gardens were mostly tended by her husband. This particular flower garden had become over run by wild yellow alfalfa, rye grasses and was full of mature sweet peas, sweet Williams, and large poppies which had already turned to pods. She told us to clear it all out but don’t touch the wild sunflowers, a woman after my own heart.
I had never seen large poppy pods and became enamored by them. The way the seeds shake out of the pods, the earthy color, their sturdiness and dimension. I mentioned how they’d be great in a mixed media project. “Yes they would and they make a wonderful dried bouquet,” she said. She is an artist and seemed grateful for my enthusiasm.
While we worked in her flower bed cutting back the out of season poppies, pulling up sweet peas, and yes, I happened to unearth an ant hole, again, I think ants are my insect totem; she was busying herself with some little project. When I climbed back into my chair, as I was done the darn ants, and began to bag the discarded plant remains, she presented me with a beautiful dried poppy pod bouquet. I was honored.
In my wild flower gardens I have smaller poppies, some are golden, some pink, others are kind of like a swirl peppermint candy red and white but I don’t have any of the large poppy red poppies. So, for the past few days, I have been sprinkling out every last poppy seed from my poppy bouquet. I’ve even found a place, where next year, I hope to have a poppy garden.
Now, one would think, if I were to do research on something, like poppies, it would be to learn how to plant and care for them. But, no, not me, I’m a little ‘wacky’ this way and needed to research the symbolism, meaning of poppies.
The Wizard of Oz is one of my top favorite movies so my first poppy thought is of the wicked witch of the west dusting a poppy field outside of Oz with poison. I can hear her scary evil voice now, “Poppies, poppies, poppies will put them to sleep.”
The poppy is symbolic of sleep as well as beauty, magic, consolation, fertility, and eternal life. Morpheus, the Greek god of dreams is represented by the poppy. Poppies were used in Egyptian burials and added to tombs. In Chinese folklore, poppies represented loyalty and faith between lovers. There is symbolism in the poppy for Christians also. The crimson color, the birth, death, renewal of the poppy is likened to Christ.
There was a time when Veterans would sell little paper poppies around Veteran’s day. When I was a young girl, my mom would purchase one and I would treasure it for months. I never thought to ask why a poppy flower, funny how I never questioned the association of poppies and Veterans. Today, in my research I found the answer to the question I never asked; and what a wondrous answer it is.
During World War I, a Canadian military doctor, Major John McCrae, was called out to a battle field to aid a wounded soldier. The soldier, Lieutenant Alexis Helmer a friend of Major McCrae’s, didn’t survive. The chaplain had been called away on other duty and Major McCrae was asked to perform the service for his fellow soldier and friend.
The following day, Major McCrae, being so distraught, not just from the loss of his friend but the horrific suffering and loss of others, began to write out his feelings. Looking across the fields of Flanders where battles were fought, blood spilled, and dead were buried there must have been something so profound in seeing the disturbed earth coved in blooming wild poppies.
In Flanders Fields
Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

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