One day last week it almost drizzled. When I stepped outside that morning I was engulfed by fragrant mist. Rarely does light fog give the thirst- driven forest a temporary reprieve, greening needles, and encouraging tiny leaves to unfurl. With this destructive weather pattern in place the next round of west wind hits the following day, graying out the green and cracking open the earth, perhaps bringing down another round of trees. The Cloud people continue to withhold the precious gift of water…
We have been suffering from drought for so long now that every tree, bush, and plant appears without an emerald coat. Harsh northwest winds, unseasonable heat, cold, and air so dry my lips are cracking have stunted most spring growth. Wildflowers have shrunk to half their size, and in places the woods are bare. High ground is parched. Lowlands are dry, and frogs, toads, and salamanders have few vernal pools in which to lay eggs. A glaring sky that denies the earth healing rain month after month brings on deadly headaches, my body’s response to endless frustration and longing.
Yet, in my woods one delicate crown of heart shaped leaves have a single Marsh marigold flower blooming in its center, and the fruit trees are budded –my cherry tree has fat round blossoms. I am surprised the trees are putting forth flowers this year because they have been starved for rain for two years running, but I also know that species survival is Nature’s priority, and some of the fruits that will follow will possibly birth new seedlings. One more year of drought and they may not bloom at all.
Windigo is a malignant spirit that the Northern Algonquin tribes fear. He feeds on scarcity and loss appearing on the fierce and deadly Northwest Wind. Made of ice he turns forests into matchsticks and haunts the human soul. I think this force has taken over our land this spring. It has surely entered my heart.
Late this afternoon, on Mother’s day, I dug another Marsh marigold to join her wild sister, remembering the child that marveled at the gilded flower that bloomed so profusely in the middle of a mucky swamp early in May. I thought about my mother who once loved wildflowers as much as I do. It was then I realized that by my actions I had invited the Great Mother to come as “Mary’s Gold” to ease my grief.
No one knows why this flower was chosen to honor “Our Lady” but marsh Marigolds are native to the US and blossom only at Ladytide, the spring festival that honors Mary. On Mother’s Day she wears a crown that circles the Earth. No matter what weather pattern is in place this wildflower blooms at the same time every year.
Another kind of Marigold (Calendula/Tagetes – two species) comes from Mexico and the Mediterranean respectively, and this plant is the one most people are familiar with. It grows in many gardens, is used as a medicinal herb, to make wine, and as a seasoning. In Mexico it is placed on graves.
The later grows from spring through fall and is phototropic, meaning that it follows the sun opening around 9 AM and following the sun. Around 3 PM the flower enters a state of slumber.
Sometimes described as ‘the flower of grief’, both kinds of marigolds holds dew that falls at night cascading over delicate edges like tears in the morning.
It is interesting to me that the two kinds of marigolds are totally separate species and yet both celebrate Mary…The delicate Marsh marigold fades rapidly with late spring heat falling into dormancy (like most wildflowers), while the other heavily cultivated marigolds bloom on. I suspect the Wild Goddess prefers to honor Mary on Mother’s Day and then let her go…
Sara is a naturalist, ethologist (a person who studies animals in their natural habitats) (former) Jungian Pattern Analyst, and a writer. She publishes her work regularly in a number of different venues and is presently living in Maine.