Saturday, April 17, 2010

Mayflowers for Perley

All it took was a phone call from L. "We're going to pick mayflowers for Perley. Want to come?" It had been weeks since I had done anything utterly spontaneous, so I leaped at the chance for an outing with friends.

I had never picked them before, but when the pussy willows come out, my mother always thinks of mayflowers. As a girl, she picked them from the patch beside her old one-room schoolhouse. They were the first scent of spring.

Tiny bits of beauty buried deep in last year's debris, mayflowers bring remembrance. For you don't find mayflowers, just by chance or accident. You must know where to look. And if you know where to look, someone must have shown you.


L's first mayflower foray was with Perley, when she was just a young girl. So on this chilled and overcast spring day, we searched for mayflowers in remembrance of him.

Perley was the neighbourhood pharmacist in my growing up years. While I didn't know him well enough to be part of his mayflower hunting, I do remember his bald head and smiling face peering over the high pharmacists' counter. When I was sick, my mother would say, "I must ask Perley what he recommends."

Each spring, even into his eighties, Perley picked mayflowers for the 'seniors'. So, it seems appropriate that he would go to meet his Creator in mayflower season. If we found a patch of these tiny bits of fragrance today, they would adorn the reception table at his funeral and remind those who love him of his special gift.


Mayflowers prefer boggy, damp environments...not places one would normally travel for pleasure. To find a mayflower patch, takes intention and purpose. Patience and rubber boots.

On this day, L. took us to a spot that had few positive attributes. We parked the car alongside a busy highway in an industrial area, slopped through a soggy ditch and followed a power line a short distance, looking for the right mix of vegetation. Then, we waded into the woods, eyes raking the ground.

It is hard work, this foray for mayflowers, pushing through underbrush, kneeling in the damp leaves to sift for hidden flowers. But there is rhythm to the process...and finding a patch brings such pleasure.

With senses and awareness heightened, sometimes there are other treasures to find...


As we searched, L. shared what Perley taught her about mayflowers.

Mayflowers (also known as trailing arbutus) grow on runners. Buried deep in the moist detritus of last year's leaves, usually at the base of a tree, the only telltale sign is a small, innocuous, burgundy-tinged leathery leaf, about an inch or so long, poking through the mat. Carefully clear the dead leaves away and you may find a cluster of tiny star-shaped flowers, miraculously blooming in this hidden dark, safe place. Snip them off the runner, to preserve the patch for future.

I couldn't help but think people are often like mayflowers. Sometimes they hide their most beautiful parts, deep within debris of the past. It takes time and intention, to gently stir that debris, to reach down and carefully coax the beauty to the surface. I wonder if this is why Perley so loved the ritual of mayflower hunting.

Mayflowers remind us that sometimes, what is most treasured - most precious - is found just below the surface of things. Such a delicate and tiny thing, this mayflower, yet hold a cluster to your nose and the fragrance is every bit as intense as that of sweet peas.


April Mayflowers.
Beyond the surprise of scent and beauty is the joy of the ritual
and the sweet remembrance it brings.

"Do this in remembrance of me"

5 comments:

ljm said...

beautiful and evocative, Deb. A lovely tribute to a wonderful man. Although I must abridge it a bit -- it was my mom who first taught me the rituals of searching for mayflowers. I was in my 40s when Perley included me in his forays into the woods -- but I like to think I was still young then!

Deborah Carr said...

We're both still young!

And I can add to this as well...when I told my parents about our foray, my dad reminded me that my first car - a '74 mustang - belonged to one of Perley's daughters...not sure which one!

kathy said...

Deb, Thanks for your part in providing the wonderful mayflowers for Dad's reception. They were beautiful and many people commented on them. He would have been so pleased. We all really enjoyed your blog too. It was beautiful. Thanks for the tribute!
p.s. Deb was the one that owned the car.

Relyn said...

Oh, I love your sweet story behind these flowers. I hope to fill my daughter to the brim with my own memories so that some day she will have such stories to share.

Shelley said...

What a lovely tribute to a special person Deb.