Friday, October 22, 2010


OUCH! I was jabbed again as I plucked the thistle flowers with bare hands. We’d taken a day for a hike and picnic lunch, and I was unprepared for flower picking. But this roadside array of purple flowers had proven too much - I needed a batch of thistles for a project at camp. So I picked, and muttered, and filled the front of my T-shirt with the spiny wonders. Unceremoniously, I dumped them into the trunk of the car.

Arriving home in the late afternoon, I popped open the car trunk and was hit with a heady, sweet fragrance. It took me a moment to realize where it came from. I had not realized that thistle blooms smell so good.

That evening, as I dried the flowers in the microwave, I watched some that had gone to seed. They expanded slowly and when I opened the oven door, it was like watching slow-motion photography. The flower pods continued to open and hundreds of seed parachutes slowly filled the whole oven and gently spilled out onto the counter. It was an absolutely incredible sight - like silky popcorn unleashed!

Thistles remind me of a neighbor we had while living in Texas some years ago. We had barely moved in when she took one look at my husband installing a dog yard (for 4 dogs), cussed him up one side and down the other, asked us what on earth we thought we were doing moving in next to her, and stomped off. We were in shock.

Over time, she observed us I guess. Gradually, we began to visit over the fence. She remembered the way the land had been when she first moved there, before all the other homes went in. She knew where the natural drainage areas were, how fences and foundations now interfered with the flow during heavy rains, how developers and builders totally ignored the lay of the land. One day, out of the blue, she invited me for tea. Another time, she appeared at our front door with a bagful of fresh grapefruit she’d brought back from Mexico. When I told her we were moving to Idaho, she looked sad and said we were the best neighbors she’d ever had. I will never forget her.

A prickly character, yes, but she had her reasons. We all know or run into some “thistle people” now and then. Perhaps they have a sweet and wondrous side, too, buried deep beneath their defenses. All we need do is listen - and try to see beyond the prickles.

...for the LORD sees not as man sees;
man looks on the outward appearance,
but the LORD looks on the heart.
1 Samuel 16:7

(Many thistle species are considered invasive noxious weeds. The seeds of these I used for wonderful "Memory Jars", displaying them along with other dried flowers, leaves, and colorful rocks. The unused seeds promptly went into the trash - beautiful as the flowers are, I do not want them growing in MY yard!)

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