Wildflowers can be found almost anywhere – in forests, deserts, on mountains, along the seashore, even pushing through the cracks of some city sidewalk. It’s amazing how many one can see, if the effort is made.
Mother and child ran hand in hand through the meadow. Daisies swayed in their wake. The mother let go and twirled around and then fell to the ground, laughing.
“I want to show you something, Clara,” she said, pulling the child to the ground beside her. Buttercup heads side by side.
“Look. If you let go, it’s like falling through the sky.” She pointed up. The fresh scars on her wrists were red from exertion.
Clara looked up at the sky, a desolate field of blue. Her head spun; heart in her chest like a captured mouse.
“Don’t be afraid.”
The Jack-in-the-Pulpit is endemic to Northern woodlands. It is a rare wildflower that favors dark, wet forests. Lucky are those who lay eyes upon one.
“Be back before dinner,” the grandmother called from the back door, resentment in her voice. “Your grandpa has too much work to do to be coming to find you.”
The knot in Clara’s chest squeezed tighter. She turned and ran up the forest path. The dog-eared field guide stuck out of her pocket. Delicate white Trilliums drooped over shrinking cakes of snow. The sound of the snow-swollen river calmed her breathing.
One more flower to find. They were here, in the way of such things that decided who would find them, like morel mushrooms and foxes. The trick was finding the first one. Grandma had said that in all her years of living in the North woods she’d never seen one, and so it wasn’t worth it to try.
Clara looked until the gray light began to dim and her head spun with hunger. As she emerged from the deep woods, she looked once more over her shoulder. Her foot caught on a log and she tripped. She lifted her head from the ground and saw them. Under a canopy of large leaves, they stood straight and regal.
She reached out to pick one. Grandma would need proof. Then she pulled her hand away. She wouldn’t make any field notes, either.
Certain wildflowers compete with cultivated flowers. They grow where they are unwanted. These are known as “weeds”. Weeds are tough plants that are able to survive under adverse conditions. Often considered insignificant and bothersome, weeds are fascinating to know.
“Yes, we know that Clara’s artwork is technically impressive. It’s her style that is substandard. She can’t seem to follow my instructions. Look at this painting. All I asked was that she copy Monet’s Water Lilies. And here she has them drowning in a whirlpool. I know about her mother, but that’s no excuse. The best I can do is to give her a passing grade. I think you should consider counseling for her as well, Mrs. Blackwood. She doesn’t seem to have any friends.”
One may transplant wildflowers, but unless the conditions are kept very much the same or the plant is particularly hardy, it may not survive.
Red light changed to green. She stepped off the sidewalk with the rest. A cavalcade of swinging briefcases and resignation. Her fingers still stung from the turpentine. Paint-stained fingernails were considered unsightly in this barren forest.
Her eyes caught a dot of yellow in the pavement. The dandelion held its ground amid the trampling feet, bouncing back in defiance after each oblivious footstep. A couple of heads turned as she laughed out loud. Their dead eyes lit up with curiosity and then turned away, disappointed.
Wildflowers often aren’t missed until they are gone and it’s too late for regret. Think before you pick them. One can learn more from one hour with live wildflowers than from an entire day with dead, dried ones.
He gazes down at her sleeping form. She whimpers, her mind trapped in some haunted, yet familiar dreamscape. Her hand curls around imaginary stems. He brushes the hair from her furrowed brow. He can’t help but think how lovely she would look under glass.
This story was published in SmokeLong Quarterly in 2006.
1. Haquetia epipactis – Lake Bled, Slovenia – 2011
2. Xanthostemon aurantiacus – Chutes de la Madeleine, New Caledonia – 2004
3. Dandelions – Kórnik, Poland – 2008
4. Bartram’s Rosegentian – Big Cypress National Preserve, Florida, USA – 2007
5. Snow-dusted Queen Anne’s Lace – Jordanów, Poland – 2007