Friday, May 25, 2012

California Poppies

What could I possibly write that would be as beautiful and as sorrowful as these poppies?  I sit down beside them with my camera and become totally oblivious to the human world around me.  When I was poking around in the garden earlier and doing some weeding, a truck pulled up across the street and stopped.  A trailer was attached to the truck, and on the trailer there were many oil drums, red ones and white ones, all brand new.  The guy in the truck made a phone call about selling a bed.  Someone had offered him three hundred for it, and he was telling his friend how absurdly low that offer was.  I sat down by my poppies and tuned him out.  I had no interest in the going rate for a bed.  

When you sit in front of a poppy for long enough, it dawns on you that poppies are never still.  Even when there seems to be no breeze, they sway.  Anything so delicate must always sway.  A breath is enough to move them.  They are delicate but somehow sturdy as well.  I am often amazed at how sturdy the most delicate-looking flowers are.  Strong winds pummel them, and it seems as if the wind will rip the petals off and blow them down the street, but that's not what happens.  The plant does not drop its petals until the bloom has been pollinated.  California poppy blooms last about three or four days.  They open each morning and close each night.  Finally, one night they do not close.  You will find their petals on the ground in the morning.

The plants bloom continuously throughout the main part of summer.  When a bloom fades, the plant starts forming long, skinny seed pods.  The seed pods start out short, but with time they become quite long.  Some become as long as a standard stick of spaghetti.  One bloom after another, buds open and petals fall.  Here is a bloom that just this morning started throwing off its green sheath.  I like the tiny dot of red at its tip. 

You can apparently make drugs from California poppy seeds.  I looked into it last summer, but it seemed like too much trouble to extract the active opiate.  Too much trouble and too many seeds.  You can also apparently just crush the seeds and make a tea with them.  Last summer I crushed up a bunch of leaves and seeds and my hands smelled like drugs, soapy and clean. 

I am including this double-poppy picture for all the lovers out there.  It's as Robert Herrick says: gather ye rosebuds while ye may.   

No comments: