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Sunday, June 10, 2012

Monday's Visual Treat - Day 1/ Flowers That Make Me Swoon

A field of poppies between Kelling and Weybourne, North Norfolk, England
photo by John Benestone, courtesy of wikipedia



Peeps,

Poppies are without a doubt the stuff of dreams, and cunningly have the ability to transport us from the here and now to the then and there--and whether achieved through tripping the memory button or tripping the light fantastic, it's still groovy, yes?? This particular flower is comprised of 4-6 petals in red/pink/orange/yellow/lilac surrounding a pistil.  While opium poppies are cultivated for opium and opiates, other uses for the cultivation of poppies include the production of poppy seeds for baking and cooking, poppyseed oil for culinary purposes, and of course also celebrated for its symbolic beauty.  I can clearly remember the first poppy I had ever seen; this was the synthetic blossom backed by a safety pin for the purposes of pinning to one's shirt or blouse or sweater.  In November invariably the solicitous parents of other kids and Sister Mercy would make the rounds of the classrooms to urge us to remember the veterans who had fought in WWI.  I don't remember if we were expected to contribute money to a fund of sorts; I do remember that the poppies were a deep red and this stood out quite vividly against the drab color of the walls, the worn and scuffed surface of the wooden desks, and the room inadequately lit by overhead florescent fixtures that gave off a faint hum and frequently popped with warning.  I also remembered that the artificial red poppy pinned to the dark blue of the sister's habit looked quite nice.  I never told Sister Mercy that cause I was afraid of her and I don't think she liked me.  In fact at times she was quite mean to me and I was stuck at her school until time to go to high school.  Looking back now I wished that I had been bigger and bad, and then I would have kicked her ass real good.  

Apparently it was believed by many that the bright scarlet color signified a promise of resurrection after death.  The red-flowered corn poppy (or papaver rhoeas) is a common weed in Europe, particularly in the area around Flanders where the famous poem "In Flanders Fields," by the Canadian soldier John McCrae was set.  In the disturbed earth of the battlefields, the poppies grew quite abundantly and marked the burial spots of the war casualties.  The poem was published in Punch magazine on 8 Dec 1915 to great acclaim.  In 1918 Professor Moina Michael inspired by McCrae's poem, published a poem called "We Shall Keep the Faith;" she vowed to always wear the red poppy in remembrance of those who had lost their lives in service.  Michael initiated a campaign to raise funds for assisting disabled veterans through the sale of silk poppies, and in 1921 the poppy was adopted by the American Legion Auxiliary as the symbol of remembrance for war veterans (and the departed).  Wearing the poppy pinned to one's clothing is associated with Remembrance Day in Canada/UK/New Zealand/Australia and countries who belong to the British Commonwealth. 

In 1983 on a country road en route to Nancy, France from Germany we passed a sign for a memorial honoring WWI.  There was an information center of sorts, actually quite small and insignificant; a narrow path led us through a grove of trees to the open fields.  What I remember still quite vividly is that there were endless rows of white crosses stretching up and over the softly rounded hills.  In the distance they appeared quite small and almost seemed to float in a moving sea of waving red poppies.  It was almost dusk and there was no one else there other than myself and my companion.  We quietly walked through the fields until it got too dark to see; I remembered Sister Mercy and her dark blue habit with the slash of vivid red that symbolized the color of blood and lives lost and the names now sadly forgotten.

Sincerely,
Shane

PS:  I attempt to plant poppies in all gardens for reasons you now understand.

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