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Publisher William Curtis in The Botanical Magazine, Hand-colored engraving #23727 (1791)

"I am not my name, either …"

In Spring, I channel my spirit flower, the humble, lovely, GrapeHyacinth. He embodies the season like no other bloom, an early riser and also a real eye catcher, he's up and at it before most others have broken ground. He's easily found and effortlessly, endlessly spreads into lawns, always beyond original intentions. He's utterly without pretension, simple, beautiful. He's neither grape nor hyacinth, but GrapeHyacinth, in that curious way that English allows a negation to become an identity. He is precisely not what he's named, but almost entirely something else.

I cannot bear to mow over that piece of lawn into which my sacred GrapeHyacinths have spread.
This annoys The Muse, who'd prefer me to more strictly maintain my boundaries. I admit that I'm a sucker for these simple fellows, long my favorite flower, and I consider it a sin to even attempt to reign them in. I envy the older lawns in the more unkempt parts of town which turn into a riot of color the first few weeks of April, lawn completely taken over with the deepest purple, a royal color most present along the poorest streets. The wealthy apparently more strictly maintain their boundaries.

By May, these beauties will have withered away. They will have invisibly sown their seeds and set to work setting bulbs through the summer. Most of a GrapeHyacinth's existence gets spent preparing for a few short weeks of showy presence. The bulk happens with nobody aware of anything remarkable happening. It seems the most amazing always occurs invisibly, with no appreciator handy. GrapeHyacinths, just like the rest of us, labor blindly, beneath anyone's radar, surprising when its time and never before. In February, there's never any clue that anything astounding lurks just beneath there in the border bracken. A month and a little more later, he's the center of attention. We all tend to underestimate potential for greatness.

The smallest flower, the largest visual impact, the subtlest scent, hyacinths might well be jealous of their smaller and more secretive cousins, capable of delivering the promise of a season without overwhelming anyone. I take one blossom each year and slip it between the pages of a book I'm reading, creating a permanent bookmark. The flower dehydrates there, permanently staining the page, preserving himself as a flat projection of his former presence, forever after evocative of some fine spring morning when the daffodils were blooming and the tulips still promising but not quite yet delivering. I suspend myself then, like that innocent blossom, and slip myself between those pages to forever mark a presence which was never more than merely passing. If Spring's eternal, it never need say goodbye.

This is precisely who I aspire to be and these flowers revisit annually to remind me of this possibility. I can forget, through the lonely-enough winter and the hot and plenty dry enough summer, that such innocence still exists and even spreads into even the better maintained civilizations. He's a wild streak, a warm color, a small reminder of what living, what being alive means. He maintains his own ecosystem, tiny within the larger scope of things, but just significant enough. He has no plans to change this world, for he's found his niche among the rough rock and unpromising soils along neglected margins. He brings beauty to the utterly banal and for that, if for nothing else, I try to emulate his lessons. I am not my name, either, but perhaps its opposite. Upon such contradictions does April always tarry.

©2022 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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