Dahlia Flowers

March to the Sea

Grammie Rose’s beautiful, two story, white house with a verandah on the back proudly sat facing the sea on our small island of the coast of Maine.  The Shelter Woods, a windbreak of evergreens, lovingly protected the houses at Barney’s Cove from the strong prevailing winds.

One bright spring day, when all danger of frost was over and the salty sea air held the promise of summer, Grammie called to me to help her drag a burlap sack out of her basement.   Being just a slip of a kid, I probably wasn’t much help.  But once the sack rested on the lawn, she promptly emptied the dry clumps of dahlia tubers onto the grass. Wrinkled and gnarled like witches fingers and dirty ones at that, the tubers didn’t look like they’d be flowers some day to me.  But the dahlias knew.  Purplish sprouts along the top of the shriveled tubers - sort of like what happens on potatoes in the spring - foretold of the miracle contained within.  The sleepy Rip van Winkle tubers knew it was time to rise and shine.

Grammie had a knack for growing a plethora of flowers, but dahlias were her specialty. She grew the most beautiful dahlias of all the grandmothers on Beals Island.  Her dahlia plants were huge.  Quite possibly taller than my grandmother, who wasn’t quite five feet tall, even in her black grammie shoes.  The dahlia flowers themselves were huge and every color of the rainbow.  However, their scent left a lot to be desired.  When that much energy goes into sheer size, there isn’t enough left to make them smell like a rose.

Every year since time immemorial, a line of dahlias had skirted the perimeter of Grammie’s manicured front lawn like soldiers marching towards the sea.  The growing plants became a living, green picket fence that separated her property from that of the neighbors.  The actual boundary lines were arbitrary blurs at best, as the land on our island looked as if someone had upset a Monopoly game.

Grammie never broke apart the massive tubers before planting unless they were too bulky to fit in their holes that must have measured a foot and a half across.  If she could catch an unsuspecting  fisherman on his way to the wharf below her house, she’d get him to dig another hole or two to accommodate the new pieces.  If she couldn’t add to her parade of dahlias, she’d give the extra pieces to my aunt who lived three houses and two hundred trees from us.  She knew better than to offer them to my mother.  Gertrude Jekyll she was not.  Our serendipity flower garden consisted of one large clump of wild blue flags that obligingly bloomed at the end of our walkway. Even they succumbed after the plumber, who was hired to run water lines for our inside bathroom, cut them down with a scythe thinking he was doing Mama a big favor. After that, Mama laughingly joked that she couldn’t even grow wild flowers.

After grammie’s dahlia tubers were planted, only dry hollow stems poked above the soil.  Could flowers possibly grow from anything that looked that dead?  But after numerous daily visits, I discovered hundreds of tiny green fanlike shoots peeking from the soil.  Everyday they were higher still like Jack’s bean stalk. The dahlias never did reach the sky, but they did grow into some mighty plants.

Late in the summer hundreds of tiny, round, golden flower buds mingled with the lush foliage just waiting to burst open.

This too shall pass as time has a way of marching on.  Grammie’s once immaculately maintained, white house with the verandah overlooking the ocean now forlornly sits in disrepair of peeling paint, broken window panes, and missing shingles.  No longer protected from the winds and harsh salt spray by the Shelter Woods, which has dwindled to just a few lawn trees.  No laughing grandchildren valiantly push a reel mower over the emerald carpet of a lawn. No longer do the majestic dahlias march to the sea.

But in my mind’s eye, I will once again watch in awe as the dinner plate size dahlias are miraculously released from their tight, golden orbs - one precious petal a time into blooms that could rival the sun.

~ Kay Seefeldt ~

[ by: Kay Seefeldt, Copyright © 2002, ( birdnest @ megalink.net ) -- submitted by: Kay Seefeldt ]


Inspirational Stories     SkyWriting.Net     All Rights Reserved.