“You are forsaken,” say the anemones.

“I have great faith in a seed. Convince me that you have a seed there, and I am prepared to expect wonders.”

― Henry David Thoreau

I ought not to be writing this, because academic deadlines are looming. But I’m seeing many beautiful wildflowers coming into show. I feel compelled to make a note.

Imagine it is still early Spring. Picture a wood anemone in flower, if you will. And now a quivering constellation of them, and an overwhelming sense of wonder when gazing at these seemingly fragile starbursts just above the field layer of a temperate woodland. A light breeze blows in from a mild front and they sparkle in the morning dew. Ah, the glory.

“You are forsaken,” say the anemones, so penned the floriographers of the Language of Flowers. But how can I associate emotional abandonment with Anemone nemorosa? They light up my world every Spring. The Victorians must have this all wrong.

Fast forward to May. This is the time when the opportunity for pollination is done, flowers tarnish and petals shrivel to dust. The flowers are “going over,” as we say, euphemistically. Oh, the disappointment, the grief.

But I propose there’s nothing “over” about the incredible evolution of double fertilization in angiosperms (flowering plants). Why defuse this kind of beauty with a terminal phrase like “going over”? The essence of flower, surely, includes what happens next. It may not be so sensuous to the body, but it’s certainly a wonder to the mind. The process is nothing short of a miracle.

We photographers, artists and writers are culpable. Maybe it’s harder to convey this kind of radiance, the consciousness of life growing in the botanical ovary. Ah, the poetry of the dainty flower, the blousy show, the sexy colours and forms that attract us almost as much as the bees themselves! I’m unconvinced we are even any good at culturally admiring our own mode of pregnancy ~ there’s a lot of goo involved, for sure.

Wood anemones lie dormant for most of the year, spreading out slowly via rhizomes just under the surface of the humous at a rate of about 6 feet per century. I know one patch in North Herefordshire around 600 by 300 feet, so on loose calculation, these plants have been resident since the last ice-age.

Here’s the rub. Pollination fails, often, because the plant is an obligate outcrosser ~ explored not least by Charles Darwin himself, and defining the trait for pollination from spatially widespread populations in order to successfully produce genetically resilient seed. Woodland fragmentation in the UK means this process becomes less and less likely to succeed. The creeping rhizomes secure survival of the species instead. Seeds have almost been forsaken. So, it pains me to say, perhaps the Victorians were right all along.

(returns to study)

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Who Knows ~ A poem for Ginny, by Elizabeth Rimmer

 

There are people who know the world
in specifics – not gull, but black-backed,
(lesser and greater), black-headed,
common, glaucous and herring.

There are people who know the woods –
not trees, but oak, willow, hazel,
aspen, and lime, and not oak
but sessile or pedunculate.

There are people who learn the names,
the Latin, the genus, the cultivar,
making lists for countries and years,
and the life-list with all the ticks –
the bbjs, and the gaps they need to fill.

And then, there are other people
whose hands and eyes know everything,
who taste the wind for salt or coming rain,
who find the right leaf or root or berry
for health or flavour, without a word spoken.

There are people who know their gardens
like their family, their lawn like their own skin,
a new bird by the frisson the cat makes,
even before the stranger’s call
breaks into the grey still morning.

And who can tell us which of these
knows best, knows more, can teach,
protect or harvest earth and sky
and water for the common good?

Or shall we try for both, a lore
of senses, heart and mind at one,
where knowledge and compassion
are held in equal balance, equal trust?

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Elizabeth Rimmer is Makar for the year 2016, Federation of Writers (Scotland).

I’m honoured to present her work here, and immensely touched this was written for me. Thank you Elizabeth, for an enduring feeling of joy.

Elizabeth was born in Liverpool, moving to Scotland in 1977. Her first collection Wherever We Live Now was published in 2011 by Red Squirrel Press. Her second collection The Territory of Rain was published by Red Squirrel Press in September 2015, and officially launched Feb 2016 at the Scottish Poetry Library, Edinburgh.

Her work has also appeared in Poetry Scotland, Stravaig, Northwords Now, Brittle Star, Gutter, and Drey, and on-line in The Stare’s Nest and Zoomorphic.

She blogs at www.burnedthumb.co.uk.