• One Minnesota Writer

Week of Blooming Poppies and Remembering

This particular week of May is bittersweet this year. The poppies are opening, their ethereal selves here for such a short time. I adore them, can't stop photographing their intense orange petals, kinked stems, dark centers. I love the way dew drops bejewel petals and buds alike. By next week, these gorgeous works of art will be gone, their naked seed pods resting atop those kinked stems until they dry enough to spill offerings for next spring, signs of hope in the continuity of the world.

The day I photographed the poppies for this post was also the first anniversary of George Floyd's death. I paused for 9 minutes and 29 seconds, thought about his life cut short so intensely, so publicly, so brutally in a city I have always loved. An imperfect city, for sure, but my city nevertheless. I sat on our front step, poppies in view, and wondered if Americans will ever let go of racism and violence, of the unreasonable insistence on keeping things as they are instead of opening everyone's hearts wide the way these poppies spread open. Will we ever choose to see our common humanity, our common desire for a happy life with those we love, instead of zeroing in on our differences? Will we ever choose, as a society, to use compassion as our first interaction with someone who might be in trouble?

From my spot on our step, I could also see the bleeding hearts, flowers that amaze me much like the poppies do only in a quieter way. When I was growing up, I got called a bleeding heart as if that were a bad thing, as if that were something I should not aspire to. Bleeding hearts weren't tough enough, they were taken advantage of. But, if I think hard about that, if I compare that line of thinking to this plant in front of me, I see that bleeding hearts are very tough indeed. They grow despite others crowding around them, they bloom with abandon, they offer what they have without being asked. These plants have been here for years, growing and spreading without any help from me.

A person who is a bleeding heart can be like that, too - offering something to whomever has need, filling in the dark spots with a bloom or two of kindness that spreads year after year until the roots of that kindness are as deep as possible. This is absolutely something to aspire to.

All photos by kcmickelson 2021.

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