‘What are you doing over there, My La-a-amb? Don’t you go picking flowers until Granny Baa sees them first.’
‘What about this pretty yellow one, Granny Baa?’
‘Let me come and see it, pet. Oh, no pet. Best you leave him alone. He’ll burn you, My La-a-amb. He’s got a nasty juice in him.’
‘But he looks so pretty, why is he so horrible, Granny Baa?’
‘No, My La-a-amb, no. He’s not horrible. He’s really kind, but he made a promise you see, and we must keep our promises now, mustn’t we? You come and sit over here with me and I’ll tell you about it.
‘Well now, let me see, I think it was in May. Not May this year, mind, May a few years ago now.
‘Spring was a little late. She’d been helping Winter to wipe down the snowflakes before they were put away in their boxes, ready for next year. He’d needed such a lot of snow that year and the snowflakes were piled higgledy-piggledy just everywhere. It was hard work. It was made even harder by dark heavy clouds lying about on top of the snowflakes, and just getting in everyone’s way.
‘In the end, Spring just shooed them all out of the door and told them to play outside until she was ready for them. You see, all those clouds had to be washed and ironed, then folded up and put away, too.
‘Now, down here in the countryside, all those clouds – just waiting around until Spring was ready for them – made the sky all dark and gloomy. That little green bush, My La-a-amb? Well, he was just sitting there, waiting patiently for Spring to arrive. He knew that she would get here as soon as she could.
‘Just then, the first swallow flew over.
“Hello, Swallow,” our bush called out, “you’re a bit early. Spring isn’t here yet, and you know Summer won’t come until Spring has been round and dusted everything for her.”
‘The swallow swooped low over our little bush “Hello, Little Bush,” he called back. “Why is it so gloomy here? It wasn’t like this when I left, last year. I’ve been to Africa, you know – it’s a wonderful place – full of brightness and light. It’s so dark here, I’ve been thinking about going back to Africa. These days, all we swallows talk about is going back to Africa.”
“Oh, no,” the little bush cried out. “You mustn’t do that. Summer won’t ever come if there are no swallows!”
“Well, we’ve nests to build and eggs to lay. We can’t wait too long,” said Swallow.
“Look, look, Swallow,” called out the little green bush as the swallow swooped by again. “Look, I’ll bring out all my flowers for you – and I will keep flowering until the end of the summer.” Suddenly the little green bush was bright with pretty yellow flowers.
“Oh that’s wonderful, little bush,” the swallow swooped round and round “Just wait until I tell all the others. Such bright and cheerful flowers make everything so much less gloomy. Oh, but wait, such pretty flowers will soon be picked by people who will want them to cheer up their homes too.”
“Oh no, Swallow. We can’t have that. These flowers are especially for you.”
‘The little bush thought and thought, “I know, I’ll make my sap strong and acid. It will burn them if they try to pick my flowers. They’ll soon realise that the flowers are there to cheer up the swallows. I’m sure people will be pleased that my blossoms make you happy – because they know that without swallows, Summer will never come.”
“Thank you little bush, that really will make all the swallows happy, just wait until I tell everyone!” and Swallow flew off to spread the news.
‘So you see, My La-a-amb, that bush made a promise to the swallows and he wants you to help him to keep it. You leave him be, now.’
‘Oh yes, of course Granny Baa, he must keep his promise. We must have Summer.’
We find comfort in many strange places, Wikipedia is a case in point. You type in Forget-me-not and you find that you have a photo of “one of a large number of plants bearing that name” – isn’t that nice? For once, I can feel reasonably confident in saying today’s picture is a Forget-me-not.
In the Middle Ages blue was the colour of chastity and steadfastness. Whether this sprang from the same source as the forget-me-not’s name, or if the one influenced the other – and if so, which did what to which – we can’t know at this temporal distance. Which, of course, creates an ideal opportunity for speculation.
As far as I can see, you have two options:
First. A knight and his lady were walking by the water. He stooped to gather her a posy of flowers. Because of the weight of his armour he toppled over, fell in the river and drowned. With his last breath he threw her the posy, calling, ‘Forget me not.’
Second. It was late on Saturday evening and God, thinking He’d got through a good lot these last six days, was just tidying His desk – ready to pack up, go home and put His feet up. Suddenly, He heard a small voice whisper ‘Forge me not’. All He had left was a little patch of blue stuff, so He used it to put together a small flower, and said, ‘Forget-me-not shall be your name’.
Take your pick.
In December 1873 the Smith County Pioneer published a poem by Brewster Higley. His friend Daniel Kelly wrote a melody to go with it. Luckily, Daniel didn’t need to change many words to make the poem and the music fit together. The song, mixing as it did, melodramatic and patriotic images was an ideal fit for the time and the place – the recently settled state of Kansas and the brutal and basic lives of the early farmers.
Brewster wasn’t the sort of person who, today, we would associate with this overly sentimental type of song. He was married five times. His first two wives died from some disease or other – there must have been plenty to choose from in those days. The third took their child and went back to her previous husband. His fourth was such a harridan that he ran away from her, taking refuge in Smith County, Kansas. Here he met and married his fifth wife – the one who, at last, gave him a reason to write poetry.
So, on behalf of those who, even under unimaginably harsh conditions, hold on to the belief that all’s well that ends well – lets have one more chorus. All together now. ‘Home, home on the range . . .’
By the way – have you had a look at http://www.everopenstorybook.com yet?
These days there are plenty of ways to protect the environment – and we use them all. Social media campaigns, charities needing our money, legislation and so on. It wasn’t always this easy. For much of the past, the environment was on its own. It didn’t do so badly, though. Of course, there were considerably fewer of us humans around then, so we didn’t do as much damage. Perhaps we should rather say, it took us longer to do the same damage.
Our picture this week is the Cuckoo Flower – also known as Lady’s Smock. If the cuckoo still visited this part of the world, it would turn up at around this time of the year. So the flower was used by blackbirds as a warning of when they could expect a sudden and unplanned addition to the clutch.
But it’s when it comes to environmental protection that the flower excels. No Society for the Protection of the Cuckoo Flower needed. No legislation to persecute wanton vandals, denuding the countryside of its pale lavender or white flowers, required. This plant has more powerful protection. A well known fact is that picking these flowers causes thunderstorms and if you take them indoors with you – your house with probably be struck by lightning.
I’ll bet there are a great many endangered wild flowers out there who wish they could say the same.