Wood Anemone - Paint Swatch Contest Second Place

Wood Anemone - Paint Swatch Contest Second Place

🕔Dec 04, 2018

by Jenn Marx

Splashes of sun stream through the boreal canopy, highlighting the path of my sure-footed journey. Although, I need no light to guide me. This rutted and root-laden trail has woven its architecture into my very soul. Even the newly grown spring moss is not enough to mislead.  

“Aren’t you afraid of bears?” my neighbours gasped when they had heard where I was going.

“Bears are the least of my worries.” I had guffawed. “It’s the mollusks and snails I fear.” I had said it in jest, but there was truth in it.  

Mollusks and snails, their wet underbellies, and invasive procreation were a threat to the very reason for my springtime sojourn into the woods. I had to be careful with the timing, though. Too soon, and I’d miss my chance. Too late, and I’d have to wait until next year.  

Last year had been such a year. Not a missed-year, but a too-late kind of year. Much too late, on account of the vigil I had kept beside my now-late spouse. I had watched, helpless as the ravage of disease took its toll. Like mollusks and snails worming their way into a once-vibrant body. Setting up camp inside organs. Creating pain no medicine could conquer.  

“Go without me.” I was besieged, from the hospital bed.

I could not.  

I preferred to stay and watch. Hold the hand of my dearly departing. Wasting my time helplessly hoping that the disease would ease its way out of our lives.  

Ease gave us no such mercy.

We had always gone together on this journey. Never missed a year over the past fifty-two. Even last year (the too-late year) I had ventured into the highlands, knowing full well that June was much too late. The emptiness by my side, matched the fruitlessness of my harvest. When I had gotten to our clearing, there was nothing left. No evidence that the Windflowers had even bloomed at all.  Their tell-tale odour, giving them the nickname of Smell Fox, long gone.  

Their absence, although expected had made me angry. How dare they not wait. How dare they leave without me. How dare they let me stand alone in the empty space they had once fleetingly occupied; seemingly unconcerned with the fractures their death had caused to my already aching heart.  

When we had moved to Canada from England in the 1960s, we had vowed to bring a piece of home with us. It only made sense that we chose seeds of our Middlesex County flower—the Wood Anemone (Anemone amerosa). It had grown wild in Yorkshire, creeping along limestone pathways, and sunny wooded country sides. As children, we had collected the white flowers from the carpet of the forest floors—like harvesting an abundance of stars. Sprigs of it had adorned bouquets at our wedding.  

How were we to know that the cantankerous weed would not take kindly to our new country? The growth rate alarmingly slow, as it seemed to rely on its root system rather than the spread of its seeds.  

For years, our backyard garden had been barren, despite our continued attempts to plant the seeds. We had sprinkled, we had germinated and transplanted, fertilized and watered, but the flower refused to grow in our newfound homeland.  

Finally, after abandoning all hope of reproducing the Yorkshire heritage (and of procreating ourselves, as we had just suffered our second miscarriage), we took all of the germinated and unplanted seeds, and buried them in the woods. A symbolic gesture that we were ready to leave behind our old country. Our newly-established Canadian citizenship, proved all the more reason to do so.  

It was completely by chance that three years later, we had happened upon that same clearing in the woods. We had brought our toddler on a picnic, when he had fallen into a sunlit patch of white, star-shaped flowers.

“Stinky!” he had exclaimed.  

We stood there, reverently awestruck by the fruits of our labour.  

“These are called Windflowers.” I had explained, plucking a piece of our heritage for our heir.  

I smile now at the memory, as I come upon the familiar clearing. The sun glints off the white petals, transforming the forest floor into blooming iridescent light. The musky Wood Anemone odour engulfs me. Reminding me of my childhood; my marriage; my children. The angry seeds sown on the surface of my heart last year, suddenly scatter to the wind. Denied the chance of laying down roots.