During a hike this past weekend I had an experience that took me back over fifty years in a blink of an eye. I was hiking out from underneath the canopy of trees into a beautiful meadow on a bright sunny morning. On the background of prairie grass and the light greens of the underbrush stood a single thistle in its perfect plume of majestic blue.
In one short breath, I was eight years old walking down a trail close to the junior high school just down the block from my home in West Virginia. It was the first thistle I ever remember seeing. I literally jumped with amazement when I saw it – it was the most beautiful flower in the entire state. I knew immediately that my mom should have this gorgeous blue gem. She owned this crystal vase with rose etchings on the side that she kept for special bouquets. It always sat in the center of the table when the home was blessed with flowers.
When I first saw the thistle, I carefully looked around to be sure that no one had planted it. I had recently learned my lesson when I showed up with a handful of tulips for my mom…. from the neighbor’s house. That was not a happy day. I knew without a shadow of doubt that I was not allowed to pick flowers that belonged to someone else, no matter how pretty they were. So I checked very carefully before I determined that this flower must have grown here by mistake or it was left over from a house that used to be there a hundred years ago.
So I went over to pick my prize and quickly learned why no one had picked that flower before. It was somehow related to the porcupine. The tulips just pulled right out of the ground but this beauty had roots twenty feet deep and the stem has made of elastic filled with sharp, little needles. I struggled with the thistle for fifteen minutes before I finally tamed the shrew. My fingers were cut and bleeding, the thistle was bent a little to the left, but I proudly walked home with a true sacrifice for my mom. My mother received it with such gratitude and appreciation. It indeed found its place in glorious crystal around the family table. I can only imagine the laughter exchanged between mom and dad once their little lad went to bed.
Today, the thistle was safe. My camera lens captured the wildflower, my fingers avoided the need for a band-aid, the meadow was left intact, and I smiled at the memory.