Saturday, November 1, 2008

Me, Mom and the Johnny Jump-ups

I love flowers. I love their colors, smells and the way they change the landscape. And I love the way flowers and memories of my mom intertwine.

One of my very favorites is the little Johnny Jump-up.

We lived on a farm and my mom loved to walk around the place and explore all the hollows, woods and ponds. Mom and her copy of Ewell Gibbons', Stalking the Wild -- something or other. When school was out I would go along. We would hunt for all sorts of stuff; hickory nuts, elder flowers, day lily buds; depending on the season, filling her backpack before heading home. She would show me flowers and plants growing wild on the farm and told me their tricks and gave cautions. "Don't eat that Jewell weed. It'll kill you." or "Don't want to eat that persimmon before it's dead ripe, you'll be sorry."

But our favorite hike was in the spring when we would walk to a far field. As we went up the rise our conversation would stop and the anticipation would set in. At the crest we would stop and gaze down into the valley, trying to see through the trees to our clearing. Wondering if our timing was right or were we too early, or maybe we were just a bit too late or, heaven forbid, had the winter been too cold... then down the slope towards the bit of woods. There in the valley would be the Johnny Jump-ups, forming a pool of purple flower water filling the clearing between the trees. We would stand and look for the longest time. Our timing was perfect and the magic was back.

These little members of violet family grow wild, their petals arranged like the violet but with the coloring of a pansy. The purple in them shades from a deep rich purple to a light, almost lavender, the gold from old jewelry to pale yellow. Their little faces nod up and down in the breeze from lovely green leaves. They are not big and fancy but to me they carry memories of spring, a valley and my mother. They are magic.

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