Yesterday, as I put the hydrangeas in my vase I thought back to the day I received it from my special guy. It was literally a half century ago.. I thought it was the most beautiful vase I’d ever seen and it was undoubtedly the first truly elegant gift I'd ever received. It wasn't the kind of thing we ever had in our home and it represented a different way of looking at life.
My Mother was a minimalist long before the term was born. We had very few items that weren't absolute necessities and I don't remember ever seeing a vase or a bouquet in our home. If there had been one, I can guarantee it would not have been in a vase that required polishing. Fiesta ware and stainless steel were much more practical. We each had our own plate, bowl and cup - my set was blue, my brother chose yellow, my dad's set was an orangey peach and mother chose gray. Mother was a superlative cook, just like my grandmother, but meals were functional, not an experience. We ate. We did not dine. At the time, I didn't realize there was a difference.
My vase is sterling on bronze and requires polishing. Few household chores bring me more satisfaction than polishing metals There is a quiet, meditative feeling about considering the artistry and work that went into creating something useful as well as beautiful. Polishing, whether my copper cookware, silver flat ware, or various containers, requires that I slow down, pay attention and experience gratitude.
An empty vase also represents endless possibilities for creativity! Looking at negative space, gives a wealth of opportunities for interpretation! Oh, that's another blog post!
Anyway, in sharp contrast to our simplistic life style, my grandmother surrounded herself with flowers, gardens, vases, heirlooms and many items to polish! She ran a 74 acre farm by herself, with black angus, pigs, chickens and she raised corn and grain to feed them all. In addition, she raised, canned and prepared the food for herself and the family and friends she entertained all year long..
My grandmother's favorite flower was the dandelion and she taught me to make garlands, split stems, gather leaves for salads, and make wishes while blowing the seeds. She knew the name of every plant on her farm and would take me to visit them, sharing legends and lore. We gathered some for recipes and products, and others we admired and left behind.. We told time by the four o'clocks by the pump beside the house, gathered baney hen eggs from under the lilac bushes, and she shared stories of the fairies dancing around the mullein stalks. (She was from Indiana, after all, and very familiar with James Whitcomb Riley's pixie people).
My grandmother's formal gardens were spectacular! There were glorious stalks of gladiolas in every color, roses so fragrant we wanted to eat them - and we did, Iris, tulips, daffodils and narcissus. Other less spectacular, but often more interesting flowers were in the fields, beside the fence posts or on the way to the barn. There were pinks, primroses, cornflowers, and columbines, bleeding hearts, day lilies, honey suckle and lavender. We made dolls from the hollyhocks, pressed flower stationery, garlands and wreaths for our hair, and rings, necklaces and bracelets.
When we left Indiana and moved to West Virginia, I missed my grandmother's gardens and fields. Thankfully, I found an abandoned garden behind the faculty apartments at West Virginia Tech, on the way to the football field and the waterfall I visited almost every day. The garden, plus the wildflowers and trees along the mountain paths, brought such peace, as well as more plants to identify and study! I found spring beauties, blood roots, and sassafras, and some old friends - lady's slipper orchids, Dutchman's Britches, trilliums, celandine, coltsfoot and chicory.
After my father died, we moved to Mechanicsburg, PA. I hated it. I was homesick and heartsick. We lived in town and I was surrounded by streets and sidewalks. I called it Cement City. There were no mountain streams or paths, rivers, or waterfalls. Years later I moved into a little fishing cabin by the Yellow Breeches in the same town and got a different perspective, but at the time, the separation from nature and all I had learned to love was devastating. And no one around me seemed to notice there was something missing.
I chose Clarion University for it's geographic similarities to Tech, and not for academics. I'll admit I was probably misguided, but i finally felt at home. I continued to search for plants in Cooks Forest and by the Clarion River, as well as doing research. When I found Stalking the Wild Asparagus by Euell Gibbons, I broke a date to read it. I literally couldn’t put it down. I felt bad but felt compelled to continue reading and taking notes. If the guy had said “I’ll pick up a pizza, bring a book and join you” we’d probably still be together. I really liked him, but he never asked me out again.. My loss.
Later, I was fortunate to live in homes surrounded by some of my favorite herbal friends, And I still do. They make every aspect of life more fulfilling. I designed and delivered a course called Enhancing Your Life with Herbs that included many aspects, from haunting herbs and herbs for romance, to healing, doctrine of signatures, zodiac herbs, holiday herbs, recipes, crafts, legend and lore. You can find many of them among my hidden treasures if you'll take the time to look!
As I reflect on my life's journey, I've been blessed. My parents taught me to value education, research, life long learning, music and diversity. Plants weren't specifically on their list, but the lessons all interweave with the path I've chosen.
Anyway, there are hundreds more stories! I’m going to write them down and call it My Life’s Journey Among the Flowers or something similar. I'll include illustrations, stories, crafts and recipes, and legends and lores, I painted over 200 illustrations for my herb course but I want to redo most of them. The reflections on the vase, and how flowers and herbs have influenced my life, have given me a framework. So if I disappear, you'll know why!
Have a fabulous summer!
"My mission is
to help others see and cherish the beauty,
romance and treasures within and around them
that are often dismissed or completely overlooked."
Mikell is a writer, artist and professional treasure hunter, finding the greatest treasures in the wonderful people who enter her life!