Friday, March 05, 2010

Paths and Primroses

Long years ago, after my family emigrated from Germany, we settled out in the country, fifteen miles from the nearest town.

It was a culture shock for my mother; she had lived in Hamburg all her life...and now she lived in a forested area close to a Mountain. We had few neighbours; the ones we did have did not speak German.

I was a solitary child...people were not the ones who interested me. Plants and animals and their behaviour was what absorbed me. I would go outside and sit among the huge Rain Forest Ferns, watching this small insect or that. I would go on long walks, with my dog, a German Shepherd named Zenta.

To this day, I is it that at the age of five or six I was allowed to wander through the bush, by myself, and not have anyone wonder where I was? And where did I get the courage to do so?

I knew there were Bear and Cougars and Deer; the sightings of each of these was discussed at home. It did not stop me. I had total faith in my Dog and in myself.

And I did not know what getting lost meant. But there was one day when I found out.

Each morning, I would awaken with anticipation at finding new paths to follow. There were many trails made by animals where I lived. One could follow them for miles, coming to swamps and ponds, fields belonging to neighbouring farms, or to the foot of the Mountain which rose up behind our property.

I was always on the lookout for wild flowers for a bouquet for my mother. Inevitably, I would pick a bunch, not understanding  the wilting which would occur quickly, as they were held in my hot little hand.

I figured it out, however, as I grew more experienced. I would leave the flowers unpicked until I had followed a trail far enough; I would pick the flowers on my return. This way, I thought, they would stay pretty and fresh longer.

And so it was, during a trip one Spring day in the car, I saw yellow and white and blue flowers growing not far from where I lived. I promised myself I would find those flowers the next day...they looked exotic and different from the usual Daisies and Dandelions that I picked for my mother.

The following day, I took Zenta on what I considered a huge adventure, since I had not walked along the road before, it being the single place out of bounds for me.

But I knew if I walked along a trail on our side of the road, I could get to those flowers without being seen. I amaze myself...I was so young!  To have that kind of guile scares me somewhat, as I possibly may have handed down the pleasure in thrills and risk to my children and grandchildren...

Anyway. There's not much I can do about that one.

My dog and I walked along the sunny trail, which wound around huge Maple Trees, up and over hills which seemed high to me, but in reality were only small mounds. I looked back and when I could no longer see my house, I knew I could cross the road.

Zenta knew we were doing something wrong.  She did not want to cross the road with me...I had to grasp her collar and pull her along. It seemed to take ages to cross that road...any minute I was sure my mother would see me, even if that was an impossibility.

But those Flowers in the wooded area across the road called to me...I could not ignore them, even if it meant punishment for my misdeeds later on.

And then there I was! Sun shone on this amazing patch of what I would later find out were Primroses, Forget-Me-Nots, and Bluebells. I thought it was Heaven, surely!  

All along the road they bloomed...and further into the Wood, there were so many Trilliums as well! But there was an old gate I would have to try and climb over...and how would Zenta clamber over it with me? I walked along, puzzling over it, until I came to a part where the fence had fallen over.  

Zenta pressed against my side, the side closest to the road.  She wanted me away from it; I heeded her advice and stepped over the fallen fence, and into the deep Woods.

All my life, in all the gardening I have done, I have never been able to replicate what I saw that day. It was as if a giant hand had seeded the ground...I could not walk without stepping on the Primroses and Bluebells.  They were growing that thickly.

Completely absorbed, I wandered along, head down, trying not to step on the beautiful blooms shining in the dappled Sunlight. Zenta, by this time, had accepted our forbidden journey and was only interested in sniffing out unfamiliar scents, although she continued to stay close to me.

I ambled so far into the Wood I could no longer see the road. And when I finally raised my head, there were old buildings just ahead of me. Oh, oh.

But they were old, falling apart. I thought possibly there was no one about, since I had come upon old buildings before and had explored them to my heart's content. Danger of falling debris never crossed my young mind.

Hello! a voice boomed from above. Frightened, I wanted to run, but I could no longer be sure about  from which direction I had come. Zenta of her friendlier barks, which reassured me a little.  But my legs still felt like jelly...I was in a forbidden place and someone had seen me. 

Up here! I'm up here!...the voice continued.  I looked up.  And there, in the ancient barn's hayloft, stood an old, bent figure. 

I said not a word.  I clung to Zenta's collar, so frightened I was close to tears.

Wait there!...I was told. I saw the man disappear into the dark recesses of the barn. And since it would take awhile to find my way back to the road, I stayed, quivering in my old rubber boots.

He came out of the dark doorway, into the Sunlight. My eyes as big as saucers, I stammered my apologies for trespassing.  He smiled; he said no more, but he offered me his hand.

Strangely reassured, I took it.  We walked along a well-tended path and came upon another building...a log home, this time, with wild gardens surrounding it. A woman stood on the back porch, which looked as if it had seen better days.

She looked ancient.  I don't believe I had ever seen anyone who looked that old.  But kindness shone out of her dark eyes and her face was wreathed with a gentle smile. I was not quite comfortable with the whole scenario as yet, but I continued on with the man who held my hand.  I climbed the old stairs along with him.

The man and woman conversed, as I looked around.  Flowering Shrubs grew all around the porch; they looked as old as the couple in whose company I found myself.

I was invited into a dark room.  It must have been their living quarters...I later learned because they were unable to keep up the rest of the house they had closed it off, living in the kitchen, with a bedroom off to the side.

I was offered milk and cookies.  They would not allow Zenta into their home; she stayed on the porch, although they gave her a cookie as well.

They introduced themselves and asked me my name. I knew it was polite to tell them, yet I could not make my mouth form my name. I could not speak at all.

So many thoughts raced through my mind. I knew I was in trouble.  I wondered how to get back to the road.  I worried I might never see my mother again. These people seemed kind...would they show me  the way home? I wondered and worried with much trepidation.

I swore I would never disobey again.

The old couple sat with me at a table by the window, as I finished my cookie and milk. Zenta was becoming restless...I could see her pacing back and forth along the porch, looking anxious. And the couple noticed...the old man went outside and comforted her, making her lie down.

They asked eventually if I was ready to go home.  Ready? I was more than ready...

I nodded, still unable to speak.  The old lady went with us as far as the porch, where she picked some of the purple Flowers...I learned later they were Lilacs...and presented them to me.  The perfume is one I will never forget. In my mind, the scent of Lilacs and this adventure are one and the same.

Thank you...I said...and my name is Marion.

Suddenly, the dammed up voice inside of me burst. Now that I was on my way home, I found my confidence and clamoured to know about the Flowers which bloomed so profusely by the side of the road.

I was told they were planted by seed many, many years ago and had spread all by themselves. I was in awe...this old, neglected but charming garden was one I told myself I would emulate. I wanted to live in a place where Flowers bloomed all by themselves.

The man...his name was Mr. Rand...walked Zenta and I home along the side of the road.  It was strange...I felt as if I had walked miles and miles on the trails, yet it was only a short walk by road.

My mother immediately assumed I had done something wrong; she came out of the house ready for battle.  But Mr. Rand reassured her and the bouquet of Lilacs did the rest. I was only sentenced to my room for the afternoon.

As I played in my room, I mused over the Primroses and Bluebells, none of which I had picked. But I remembered the path which led to them...and I knew it would not be long before I returned, if only to stare at them from the side of the road.

And today, I sit and think...

If only all the paths in my life had led to a Primrose garden...


  1. What a beautiful, colorful, fragrant memory! As hard as I try, I can't recall any flowers in my childhood. I remember looking for four-leaf clovers and making chains from the weed-flowers, though. I grew up on a farm and my aunt and uncle planted food, not flowers. I do recall the wild black-eyed susans that grew in the ditches and along the Red River levee in the Fall. I love my herbs best of all...their fragrance is so healing and uplifting! My mint is coming up and I still have some Greek and Cuban Oregano growing in pots. I've always loved flowers and growing things. I guess the vegetable gardens of my childhood inspired me. A great post, Marion! Spring is near, thank God! Blessings!

  2. What a charming story! I walked every step with you. I have primroses and bluebells in my flower gardens and a lilac near the doorstep. Now I am more anxious than ever for spring!

  3. I love the way you lead us through the tale. I feel like I am walking along with you and feeling your emotions while entering that strange log cabin. What a wonderful time and place to grow up. In the suburbs of Los Angeles things were much more peaceful, but parents still had to watch their kids much closer. Even so, I did get a lot of adventures on summer camping trips. - Margy

  4. Marion,

    My mother had an awesome flower garden, at first. It wasn't until later that she began to grow vegetables, but they were never her first love. I love flowers, as well, but my first love is growing vegetables and herbs. I have a whole bank of thyme, which I've discovered grows very well here and is so beautiful and fragrant and useful, to boot!

    I went outside yesterday and raked all the branches and leaves off the garden was so warm and sunny, I fell into believing Spring had sprung. But today, there is snow in the forecast. :(

    My first instinct was right...I believe we're in for a bit more Winter!


    I think it is you that has that charming daffodil area in your garden? There have been many times that I've walked through your very beautiful property with you on your blog, as well!


    The log home was completely refurbished by my aunt and uncle (godparents, actually, but referred to as aunt and uncle) and is now an absolutely stunning home. It still has all the original parts, though. But much of the old, overgrown gardens I loved so much has been cleaned and replaced.

    Still, when I see primroses, this scene at the side of the road always comes to mind. And has forevermore been the foundation for every one of my gardens.

  5. I think it's wonderful to have a wildflower childhood. The way the world is now so few children have that privilege. I think it allows people greater freedom in individuation. I was lucky in that way too although there are dangerous aspects, as you pointed out. I enjoyed my walk through your garden. And yes, especially; the lilacs.

  6. OOOOh and where was this magical paradise?
    Sorry, it is just the logical-placement side of me requesting. I am thinking maybe western Canada?
    A wonderful fantasy . . .

  7. Ah, Marion. I grew up roaming around the woods in rural Alabama. I too had a solitary childhood since we were far from neighbors to play with. Your lovely story took me back and I recall a pond, which seemed so big at the time, that seemingly sprung up from nowhere. I'm sure my mother would have worried had she known where I had been. What a pleasant escape today reading your words.

  8. Marion, I very much enjoyed reading all about your adventure--and looking at the lovely photos too.

  9. Princess,

    Aren't Lilacs the most amazing flowers! There are so many varieties now and luckily most grow so well here in the interior of BC. I was able to plant 3 or 4 different varieties last Spring; I'm looking forward to a few blooms this year. Hopefully.

    I tried to teach my granddaughter about flowers when she was little and she still retains some of the knowledge. And she loves flowers. Lilacs were her mother's favourite flower.


    Heh,heh! You'll know it's not my garden in the interior here. Even if there is no Snow cover here, it is still fairly cold at night. Even the lawn is still Winter brown.

    The photos were taken at a home I owned on the West Coast of Vancouver Island. I lived there for about 25 years and was able to landscape to my heart's content. It became mature and lovely. One day, I hope to have one like it again.


    So good to see you, old friend! I remember you writing about Alabama and how you grew up there.

    Oh yeah! Those ponds which drew me like a magnet...I sure remember those. There were all sorts of creatures that lived in them. My dog and I used to come back covered in mud...and have to tell fibs about how I got like that.


    I appreciate you reading the entire is not a short post for sure!

    These were some of the first photos I ever took with a digital camera. There's much nostalgia involved in these!

  10. Anonymous9:05 p.m.

    Hello Marion,

    The adventures of a child and her dog looking for flowers, watched over by the "wee folk" as they explore; images from my favorite story books from childhood.

    Thanks for the walk along the primrose path!

  11. Miruh,

    I'll bet there were many "wee folk" who watched over me and my dog, as we went on our forays!

    Thank YOU for visiting!

  12. A ~beautiful~ story <3