It happened this morning, I imagine, sometime after dawn. The fuzzy pod split its seam when the pressure mounted, and the vibrant, papery petals spread wide to the lightening sky. The pod lay atop its newborn like a protector, and would stay there until time to truly let go. The moon hung nearly full and white and round somewhere still in view to the west. How fabulously tiny this event was compared to that and to the silence of that morning twilight time, dawn.
I missed all of this, of course, but the opened poppy caught my eye when I passed a window on the way to make a cup of coffee. I stopped, spun, and headed the other way. This was a birth I had to see.
Poppies are magical to me. I call them my totem flower, which means to me they’re something special, mystical, important. They remind me a certain moment many years ago, when I was 14 and had just come out the other side of a hard change that transformed me. It had rained hard the night before, and when it ended, I took a walk in my new neighborhood. I was new here, I didn’t know these streets or these houses and their gardens. And there it was, a bed of poppies in a neighbor’s front yard, fragile, weather-beaten, and somehow still teetering on narrow stems, holding open their papery petals as if to say “we made it.” Resilience. I understood that so well. A reminder, too, that life is good. The moment etched.
Poppies remind me of that moment so long ago. I keep a small painting of one I bought from an Italian artist selling his work by the River Arno in Florence. But the poppies that thrill me the most are the ones that appeared in front of my house the year it was built (in 2010) just months after I created small garden plots out front.
I didn’t plant a single poppy.
Plants are called volunteers when they show up without being planted. These volunteers circled the front of my new house, perfectly positioned on either side of the front walk and nowhere in sight anywhere else around my house or in the big meadow that surrounds it. One of those unexplainable little winks from the universe. Right place, right time; exactly where I need to be; home at last.
Winter came, and I pulled the poppies. I shook their seeds out of their dried pods and saved them, planning to scatter them around the meadow this spring and take my chances with the birds feasting on them.
And I never did it. Spring came and the seeds stayed in their envelope. I hoped magic would just happen again, that poppies would raise up out of the soil all around my house again. But March came and April passed by, and there wasn’t a single poppy.
But in early May I saw it: the fringey green leaves of an Oriental poppy had lifted from the soil where none had ever grown before. This time it was at the back step, my true entrance to the house. A few days ago I could see the buds fuller and the stems arcing higher, readying for that burst that could happen any day now. It was kind of exciting, in a weird way, waiting for a flower to bloom. But this wasn’t just any flower. It was my totem flower. And when you get a wink like this from the universe, well, you just want to offer everyone a cigar.
Seeing the first bloom and remembering magic is real.