Posted by: Memorizing Nature | June 13, 2010

Beauty in the Ditch

Wildflower Series #2

My cousin and I sat cross-legged in the very back of my family’s mustard station wagon, spotting hippies. We were on the way to the grocery store with windows down.  

“There’s one,” my cousin said when we had stopped at a light. She pointed out a long-haired, young man wearing bell-bottoms and little bells around his wrist that rang as he ambled along.    

The wagon made a left, and we fell over.

"They sleep at night, and open at dawn. Daisy, the day’s eye." (Photo by E. Medline)

We righted ourselves and continued the game. I noticed two hippies across the street. “Look at that one’s skirt!” I shrieked. “It’s dragging on the ground!” Hippies were suddenly everywhere. If anyone had asked what I wanted to do when I grew up, I would have stated, “Be a hippie.” What else would people do?  

Further along, another hippie wore a garland of daisies. The flower chain had weakened from the heat, but remained symbolic on the woman’s crown. 

Daisies, the most photogenic flower. They are perfectly evolved specimens, so perfect that their invention seems to have required a spectral hand. They sleep at night, and open at dawn. Daisy, the day’s eye. Their yellow buttons are a hardy collection of individual florets noisy with insects. Their white rays, bright as good teeth. 

I was walking along beside the road ditch the other day, and noted that when daisies bloom, so do the bladder campions. The sepals of this wildflower, Silene vulgaris, fuse together to form a small balloon that may pop if squeezed. The airy sacs are lined with purplish veins. The free petals look ragged. Categorized as a nuisance, the plant is not in fact vulgar, but interestingly pretty. If this be a weed, then weeds are the true flowers and maybe we should be pulling out the geraniums.

The ditches are lively now. Wild blackberry bushes have grown taller this year, while the miniature strawberries’ dimpled fruit are turning from white to pink. I don’t dare touch the buttercups, which will cause a rash, but examine their melting petals. Vines crawl all over the nameless others. The air smells like an expensive, miscellaneous shop.     

By the time we had reached the grocery store, I had counted seven hippies. Several had been barefoot. A couple had carried beaten guitars. One had flashed us a peace sign that traveled across the air and thwacked me in the heart with a charming impudence.  

I begged to ride in the grocery cart. I whined for Neapolitan ice cream. I dropped a ketchup bottle and made a mess of the aisle.  

"If this be a weed, then weeds are the true flowers and maybe we should be pulling out the geraniums." (Photo by E. Medline)

When I was old enough to be a hippie, hippie season was over. I never liked the preppy T-shirts with collars that came with my teenage years, but wore them once in awhile anyway. By then, the peace sign had become a caricature, because peace is sometimes difficult. The guitars were left by the side of the road, I guessed, but music continued in other pressing forms.

The ditches are ever-changing. Today, daisies and bladder campions get the stage, but soon the thistles will blossom. And when the thistles bloom, I will search in the mass of growth for the remnants of the flowers that used to meet me there. They’ll be hidden, but still there, waiting to disperse their seeds of optimism.

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  1. You are so talented and I loved the pictures. Writing is certainly your true calling. Keep it up Friend.

    • Marg, thanks for the encouragement. Sometimes it’s hard to post so often with a full-time job, but that weekly motivation really keeps me writing. Can’t rely on excuses! Elaine

  2. I liked the juxtaposition of looking for ditch flowers and looking for hippies when you were a young person. The hippies were such young and idealistic beauties, flourishing on the edges of society, not fitting in that well.

    Personally, I go barefoot a lot myself, even though I’m 57 — I was a little young to be a hippy at the right time.

    • That is a nice analysis – you are so right about the juxtaposition. A lot of what I write is from the semi-subconscious, so I’m not sure what I’m trying to achieve half the time. I myself have trouble going barefoot. Feet too sensitive!

  3. Hi Elaine,
    I wonder what kids today are going to count in the car on the way to the grocery store?

    The meaning of the word vulgar (or vulgaris) is common. So common plants and animals will often have a species name of vulgaris. Too bad it has come to mean “low quality” or “trashy”.

    Keep up the good work.


    • Ha. Kids in the car on the way to the grocery store play their hand held video games. Or watch the built in DVD. Counting things is so yesterday. Looking out the window is so passe.

    • Hey D. I appreciate the clarification. But really, vulgaris just ain’t a pretty word! Guess words evolve like everything else. Elaine

  4. I love your homage to ditch flowers! Beauty can be found everywhere if you open your eyes to it. 🙂

  5. I agree that some “weeds” have great, interesting flowers. If only that were the case for ivy (my evil nemesis)!

    Loved the post.

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