On Poppies

On Poppies


I’ve been out here haphazardly gardening after experiencing some destruction from groundhogs and a bout with poison ivy after Mother’s Day, and sinking into the rhythm of early summer.  Poppies have been ever present on my mind, one of the saddest gardening casualties at the hands of our resident groundhogs were all the rogue poppies that sprouted up on the tangled hill in my backyard.  My heart leapt in early spring when I realized they had managed to pop up in some erratic spots, lying in wait all winter.  It seems silly to mention that it brought me to tears when I came outside in the morning to see the two foot tall stalks munched down to the dirt, but it did.  It was something about witnessing an anomaly or an unlikely survivor growing so easily and strong all on its own with seemingly no intervention or support, and then the tragedy of witnessing it be wiped out in one fell swoop.  So it goes in the garden, and they do say if nothing is eating your plants you’re doing it wrong, or something like that.  Still, I had been hoping to savor the final culmination of wild poppy flowers to ring in the small victory of making it to summer.  Somehow the California Poppies I sowed in January managed to survive groundhogpocalypse and are going strong. I’ve been reveling in watching them stretch open to the sun and then wrap themselves back up like they’re tucking in for the night at the end of the day.  It feels like a trivial thing, to be thinking and writing about flowers, as we watch bloodshed happening in real time on the other side of the earth.  In April I watched a video on instagram of Bisan sitting with a tiny bright red poppy sprouting from a pile of rubble.  I believe it was an Anemone Coranaria, the national flower of Palestine, and native to the area. It is considered a symbol of remembrance of martyrs, and its stem contains all the colors of the Palestinian flag.  What a gift and a reminder of beauty, hope and resilience amidst so much horrifying destruction.

Despite having a lot of heavy existential dread about what it means for us that so many man made atrocities, Genodices and Ecocides are occurring all over the world, I take a lot of comfort in the knowing that the earth tirelessly works to repair itself.  In ancient times in many parts of the world, the Poppy flower was commonly associated with grain crops and sustenance just as much as it represented death grief and eternal sleep.  It grew spontaneously in farmers fields springing up between crops across the Mediterranean Asia and areas of Europe. The seeds can lay dormant for as long as 80 years, lying in wait for everything else around it to die off and give way to its blooms.  Poppies spring from the remains of destruction, bloodshed and war.  There are copious accounts of poppies growing en masse atop battlefields and the mass graves of fallen soldiers.  In reading more about this, I found there is a sort of cautionary tale as we head into Memorial Day weekend, and are being prompted to remember all those who have died in battle.  During World War One, the French countryside was the site of much of the fighting.  During this brutal conflict, tanks, artillery shells and massive tunnels and trenches being constructed churned up the soil and essentially turned acres and acres of once fertile farmland into muddy hellscapes littered with the destruction of war and death. This brought not only Clostridia to the surface, a deadly bacteria found in soil that causes gangrenous infections and killed many, but the disturbance also encouraged the proliferation and growth of the dormant red Papaver Rhoeas seeds that later in bloomed by the thousands on the barren, scarred earth, even in the cemeteries.  It was impossible to ignore the red mark war had left on the land. After reading more about those events, it’s hard for me to ignore the irony of the earth infecting humans violently destroying land and trying to kill each other, and then following that up by blanketing those sites of tragedy and death with bright red flowers.  When I see a poppy I see a plant that has the capacity to adapt and survive, even in a hostile environment. A symbol of hope for what comes after, when nature has the chance to try and return to herself. I have hope more dormant poppies will grow on my hill, and I know in my heart Bisan will have the chance to sit with her beloved poppies in the coming years too. Until then, don’t give up, do what you can in your small corner of the world, a million seeds over time eventually blooms despite all odds ❤️

Back to blog

Leave a comment