Wild Roses and Holland

While I write this we’re actually inside, escaping the heat. Crazy, I know. It feels down right ridiculous to run for cover from the sun–the very thing we’ve been lifting our snow white faces toward, closing our eyes and craving, for the last nine months. The girls are reading their books, but I’ve given them a time limit. It’s either that or banning the printed word and it’s pull all together. If it were up to them they’d melt into their books for days at a time, which sounds okay in theory, I mean, they’re quiet and certainly less needy in the clutches of The Babysitter’s Club, but it doesn’t feel right. Especially when I have to cajole them to come outside and play or pick wildflowers.


cake covered in edible flowers (rose, mint leaves, and chamomile)


We dug out the middle of the cake (to save a piece without out lactose/icing for Uncle Derek) and filled it with petals.

It’s wild rose season here. The fragrant blooms of the Rosa acicularis can be used to make tea, creams, or floral oils, but this year we just ate them. Belén also confirmed they work as “bush bandages” and help soothe mosquito bites (Beverly Grey’s advice). The petals are perfectly shaped to cover irritating welts and reduce itchiness; simply moisten the petal and stick to affected area.

Some not-so-wild flowers are the blooms on my snow pea plants. I sowed the heirloom seeds in May and the vines are are already up to my neck. (They grow 6 feet tall.) They’re a robust plant, matching the vigor of the Russian Mennonites who brought them over to Saskatchewan. I bought my first packet a few years ago from Prairie Garden Seeds and even if I didn’t like them I might feel obligated to save seeds from year to year, if only because they reflect my own heritage.


Russian snow pea


Lately I’ve been thinking about expectations, and what happens when life doesn’t go as planned. I was visiting with a woman I’d just met when I asked her the kid question.

“No, I don’t have any, ” she replied. “But I wanted four.” She went on to explain more; about cancer, the unsuccessful adoption application, and their cross-country move.

I wanted to tell her I understood, that I’d tasted the bitter drink of wanting something and not getting it, but I stopped myself before I went too far. I knew I couldn’t continue, not with my belly busting out of my pants. But it was difficult because I feel for her, and all of us, who think we have control over what our families will look like, who our children turn out to be, and the direction of our lives, when there are so many surprises along the way. Hard surprises.

My friend, Shalain, forwarded this poem to me a few years ago. (I wish I could copy and paste it here but I didn’t get the author’s permission.) Emily Perl Kingsley wrote Welcome to Holland as an explanation of what it’s like to raise a child with a disability. I’ve thought of it often since my first reading, and not just in the context of kids with special needs. I cried when I read it after my miscarriage. I thought of it when I saw Shalain’s brave and beautiful daughter learning to walk, again, after one of many major surgeries. And I looked it up after my conversation with the woman who wanted four children, but has none.

We can pack for a trip to Italy, spend months or even years poring over guidebooks and looking at other people’s photos of their own Mediterranean vacations, but what happens if we never land up in Italy? What happens when our husband dies the year he retires, our kid’s spouse has an affair, or we don’t get the family/job/friends/life we imagined? What happens if we land up in Holland instead of Italy?

The poem ends positively, encouraging us to see the beauty in unexpected circumstances, but I think I like the darkest part the best. It’s the second last line that acknowledges how hard reversals can be.  Resilience, marbled with courage and bravery, is often the result of intense pressure and circumstances we rarely choose for ourselves.


On a more practical note, here’s a Daddy/daughter team making a trailer to haul canoes and cargo. As Susanna walked around with her finger on the drill trigger I heard Stan comment on how important it is to to handle tools to understand how they work and to “get a feel for them”. I’m not sure how much progress they made on the trailer but I’m certain she cultivated some of that tool intuition her dad was talking about…



Thankful for wild roses, Russian seed savers, poems, and girls with tools,







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