I spent two years studying fiction and have spent the past year focused on essays.
I’m “following my muse,” as they say, and for now, personal essays are center stage. Connecting dots, exploring themes, thinking hard about past events and how they relate to other events, people and places are bubbling to the surface.
A few weeks ago, I visited the Asheville Herb Festival. It’s an extension of the farmer’s market where area herb growers and natural plant enthusiasts spend two days listening to oohs and aahs of plant lovers from all over Upstate South Carolina and Western North Carolina.
This go-round I met a plant specialist from Marshall, NC who had brought such exotics as trilliums, foam flowers and jack-in-the pulpit (or is it Jacks in the pulpit? There are several jacks and several pulpits involved.) Immediately, I asked if she had something called “Dutchman’s breeches.” Yes, she said, but not here. Had she had this perennial on the sales table, she would have made another sale.
The very mention of these delicate white wildflowers takes me to a walk in the woods with my father more than 40 years ago. On a lark one spring day, he said we needed to go look for the wildflowers in the woods he knew as a kid. This walk, maybe the only one I ever took with my Dad, was pure adventure. For once he didn’t have a phone to answer or a call to make. So off we went in a rare hour of exploring the same woodsy creek bottom where he had seen nature’s trinkets blooming in the 1920s: pink lady’s slippers, preacher Jacks and tiny clotheslines with miniature white “britches” hung out to dry. To our delight, they were still there waiting for us.
Dutchmen’s breeches, I have since learned, are cousins to the bleeding heart, which I have also added to my garden, remembering those delicate pink hearts left by the master gardener who built the house I grew up in. In recent years I’ve planted two varieties of bleeding hearts as well as asparagus and rhubarb–some edible perennials that same gardener left at my girlhood home. I can’t look at either without being eight years old again.