This weekend, driving around the Balaton, I was mesmerised, not by the lake or the vineyards but by the grass verges on the roadside. Column after column of red poppies sparkled with raindrops mixed in with purple fireweed, white daisies, and blue cornflowers. I was struck by the fact that none would sell in a flower shop – no one would pay for these weeds – and then immediately got to thinking about how silly we humans are.
When a ten-year-old child knows their Tommy Hilfiger from their Calvin Kline, one has to wonder where we have gone wrong. I know I can’t speak for everyone but I bet I’m not the only one who has chosen an expensive wine thinking it must be good if it cost so much – only to be disappointed. I’ve bought designer label stuff not because it fit or flattered but because it was a whatever. I’ve read prize-winning books that I hated and watched art movies that went over my head and saw plays that I just didn’t get … all because I felt I should.
I doubt I’m the only one that has been caught up in a series of societal expectations – someone else’s expectations. I doubt that I’m the only one to have felt an obligation to do something I’d rather not just because I thought I should. And I doubt that I’m the only one to have forgotten that all too often, it’s the simple pleasures in life that are the ones that memories are made of.
Doug Larson said once that a weed is a plant that has mastered every survival skill except for learning how to grow in rows. How much more interesting our world would be if more of us mere mortals were to follow their lead.
The poppy blooms for just a few days and yet in that short space of time adds a rare beauty to the world, offers the milk from which opiates are made, and the seeds that used in baking and pressed for oil. Synonymous with loss of life in war, the poppy has become a sign of remembrance. And for me, a sharp reminder that life doesn’t need to be any more complicated than I make it.
This week, as I dot the final i and cross the final t in my dissertation and get ready to pack for my road-trip, I’m truly grateful that we took the time to stop and smell the poppies. And if my stream of consciousness takes me from the Balaton to Flanders and back again, from designer labels to opiates and cooking oil, all the better. Isn’t that what life is? One long road-trip that brings us places we never thought we see, introduces us to people we never imagined we’d meet, and makes us constantly wonder what’s around the next corner.
Note: For a reminder of what the Grateful series is about, check out Grateful 52