The forget-me-nots begin their first tentative blooms at the beginning of April, and continue through most of May. I permit—no, I encourage—the forget-me-nots, a native wildlflower, to naturalize all over my backyard, across the grass and into the flower beds, and each spring eagerly await their abundance. Every year I look for the first few rosettes of soft green leaves and check daily for the first flowers, then watch the green of my grass turn to a field of blue stars and carefully walk among them, watch the sun play across them as if on a cloud and reflect from the dewdrops in the morning or spring raindrops in the afternoon, humming with hungry insects, renewal, from one packet of seeds I tossed out there in the autumn of 1990, right after I moved in.
I don’t cut my grass until they are done blooming but let them finish their cycle, welcoming the bees to come and pollinate the flowers, offering migrating butterflies a meal of nectar, and the returning and nesting birds a hunting ground to feed themselves and their young. My back yard feels like a woodland meadow to look at from all angles and enjoy, a quiet and contemplative place to sit within, to listen to the insects and feel the life surging forth at the beginning of spring. It’s a place of renewal for me.
Life gives us, literally and figuratively, both light and darkness each day, each season, each era of our lives, from our own losses and joy to those of our family, friends, community and the world around us. Having this refuge for myself has been integral for me to weather these storms, of course a place to grieve the losses of my feline family and losses of friends and family, a place to wave my arms and spread my joy at good news or just a happy moment, as well as a place to let my sadness drop away to the soil, there to be worked into the fabric of life as only nature can do, to slowly break it down, use the best of what it has to offer, then discard the rest.
This has been a difficult week in particular, in what seems to be an increasing number of difficult years. It’s hard not to fall into despair at seeing innocent people killed and mutilated by an act of intentional violence and even grievous accidents, and harder, as we feel helpless at not being able to act, not to follow every fact and every image of the events, trying to resolve our own feelings, help resolve the sorrow and pain of the immediate victims, and still feel safe in our own homes and our own hearts. We are changed by each event in the world as the ripples of impact reach us from near or far, just as we are changed by personal events, but this is when I look at the broader example of nature and the earth itself, existent much longer than we individuals or even the human race, for the slow and careful process of healing. Even though the light may be dimmed, signs of life always appear even in the places of greatest devastation, and the earth folds herself around what is left and makes something fruitful and productive.
I don’t follow any individual religious belief but find wisdom in all I’ve read and learned. As a young girl in Catholic school trying to make my way through the King James version of the Holy Bible, one verse was remarkably clear to me then as it is today: One generation passeth away, and another generation cometh: but the earth abideth for ever. (Ecclesiastes 1:4)
I have taken hundreds of photos of my forget-me-nots through the years to find one that is, for me, the essence of that space that heals me. The photo of the forget-me-nots below is the closest I have managed to come to that feeling of life and peace I feel at being within them. I allowed the play of light and shadow intentionally, and if you look closely you’ll even see a small sulphur butterfly on the left and a honeybee on the right, but you’ll have to supply the humming and buzzing, the chickadees and goldfinches, blue jays and cardinals and sparrows who are singing, the smell of the earth and the soft spring breeze—and please, spend some time in your imaginings. You can download this image and use it as a wallpaper on your electronic device or keep it to look at whenever you need to. Click on the image above to bring up the full 2000px version, then right-click and download as you please.
The buttercups have been added to the spring beauty of the forget-me-nots. Add a little dappled sun and it’s breathtaking.
My backyard is a sea of forget-me-nots right now. They’ve been blooming since the beginning of April, and will continue through most of May. Every year I look forward to this, to finding the first few, then watching the green of my grass turn to a field of blue stars, to carefully walk among them, watch the sun play across them as if on a cloud and reflect from the dewdrops in the morning or spring raindrops in the afternoon, humming with hungry insects, renewal, from one packet of seeds I tossed out there 21 years ago.
This is but a small section of them all; I was finding myself out there every afternoon photographing with every lens and from every angle. I had to stop myself, and make myself just look at them and enjoy them.
The forget-me-nots blooming in a basket in the front of my house catch the last of the evening sun. I find something incredibly sweet about the way they look in the basket on this chair.
I planted native forget-me-not seeds the year I moved into this house and they’ve continued to seed themselves and bloom all over my hard for the next 21 years. There are so many, and they come up in somewhat inconvenient places, like between bricks on walkways, so I pull them and plant them in all sorts of containers. As long as they remain damp, the show no signs of the trauma of being moved.
I also pulled a few chairs out of someone’s trash and use them for decoration in the yard. I like the use of chairs and other unusual props and planters in landscaping, but was always concerned mine would l0ok like I had simply placed a chair in the front yard and forgotten it.
Here is one of the chairs with the baskets of forget-me-nots and the red train lantern that I pull around to the front of the chair and light when company is coming in the evening. The creeping myrtle, lunaria, cranesbill geranium and daylily fronts look so lush with this first flush of spring.
The forget-me-nots have suddenly begun blooming, responding to a few slightly warmer days and lots of rain, sprouting stalks whose growth can be measured in the course of one day, the round green buds popping open to revel the perfect five-petaled blue flower with its yellow center.
The overnight rain still clings to their leaves and stems and one drop hangs suspended from the edge of a tiny round petal.
And as the flower implores, I remember past springs and my yard a sea of blue as I had let them naturalize, and I remember past gardens and cats who spent the days outside with me and all the pleasant memories from 20 years in my little back yard.
It’s hard to forget the forget-me-nots as they so obligingly reseed themselves every year. I tossed one handful of native seeds into my yard the year I moved in, 1990, and they’ve been happily sending out seeds every year, moving around the yard like a cloud.
Forget-me-nots originated in New Zealand but grow all over the world, even in more frozen regions, and so they appear in art and literature the world over, all through history.
This is Myosotis arvensis, or Field Forget-me-nots, growing better in sunny areas. They are biennials, meaning the seed sprouts and grows one year, overwintering and often dying back to the soil, then sprouting and blooming as soon as possible the following spring. In my yard, they set seed in mid to late summer, the seeds sprout in late summer or early fall and those are the ones that bloom the following spring.
And today I will change my header to reflect their blooming.
I let them sprout in my lawn, which I don’t cut until some time in May and which is primarily wildflowers anyway, and all through my garden, even moving them to pots and windowboxes for spring color. They’ll bloom for at least four weeks, and the seeds develop just in time for the beginning of the backyard birds’ migration. I also use them as cut flowers.