Of seeds and waiting and blossoming

Please let me introduce you to Miss Rumphius:

miss rumphius

It is because of Miss Rumphius, aka The Lupine Lady, that I’ve always wanted to grow lupines.

She is first a librarian and then a world traveler, but after an injury she realizes it is time to find her “home by the sea” and fulfill the final prong of her 3-part life mission statement, which is to make the world a more beautiful place. She comes to do so by planting lupines.

I have always wanted to be like Miss Rumphius (well, at least since I first met her–which was probably 25 years ago), and it is because of her that I’ve long loved lupines.

Sadly, I’ve never had much luck with growing them. I’ve planted lupines numerous times, but they’ve always been a bit puny and nothing like the ones growing on the cover of  Miss Rumphius’s book.

Until this year:

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I have only this one plant, but isn’t it glorious?

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It’s struggled to grow for at least two years. Its leaves would come up, but it never flowered. I’d pretty much given up on it, thinking that, perhaps, I was just not meant to be a grower of lupines.

It’s funny how things sometimes grow and blossom when we leave them be.

Miss Rumphius plants a few seeds in stony ground, and they bloom several seasons later, after winter and then a spring of illness. Looking out her window at them from the confines of her bed, she wishes she could plant more, but her health prevents it. When she is finally able to get out again after another winter and spring, she sees that the flowers have spread, their seeds carried by the birds and wind.

It happens without her needing to do anything other than plant those few first seeds. And wait, and let things take their natural course.

I suppose it might have been well enough to leave it there, but she doesn’t. She orders bushels of seed that she begins to carry in her pockets, tossing them everywhere she goes. Some people call her crazy, but she just walks and flings seeds, trusting in the process.

Which, of course, is enough. Eventually, her flowers bloom everywhere.

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Like Miss Rumphius, I am ending one stage of life and beginning another, wondering what I might do to make the world a more beautiful place.

I suspect the seeds of an answer to my question have already been sewn, and that it will unfurl when I turn my attention to other things and stop waiting for its bloom.

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A friend told me this week that a watched peony never blossoms.

What about you, friends? Anything you’re waiting for?

15 thoughts on “Of seeds and waiting and blossoming

  1. Marian says:

    This is such a lovely post to read on a Sunday morning, Rita 🙂 .

    I couldn’t quite remember the entire story (although I was certain it was one I had borrowed from the library and read to my kids when they were younger) so I Googled it and came upon this audio version:


    I had indeed read it years and years ago, and re-visiting it has brought back such lovely memories: It’s not only reminded me of my snuggle-up-with-young-children picture-book-reading-days, but also of our time in Minnesota in general. Lupines were everywhere there — growing wild along the side of roads — and they were SO beautiful! Our property backed onto woods and I tried for a time to have a “proper” (ie. tame/weed-free) bedding area between the lawn and the woods. This proved impossible, but I did have success with ONE plant: Lupines 🙂 . They self-seeded and held their own very nicely in and amongst all the wild plants growing at the edge of the woods, and it was just so wonderful to see their purple blossoms every spring 🙂 .

    I am waiting for many of the same things you are, Rita. I am waiting to see what life will be like when our 17 year-old son goes off to university in the fall. (Although he’s out so much now that we already have a taste of what it will be like to have only our youngest at home.) I’m waiting for my 11 year-old to tell me he doesn’t want/need me to read to him anymore. I’m waiting for him to realize how lame his parents actually are. (And then I will wait for the time when he realizes we’re not quite as lame as he thought; his 19 year-old sister seems to have already come to that conclusion, thank goodness.) I am waiting for the time when my thoughts about not “being” a specific something lessen and go away; when I finally, really and truly, am at peace with everything I am “doing” without feeling the desire to have a label to define who and what I am. (Perhaps this means I’m still waiting to feel grown up?)

    And in the big picture, I am waiting to see what the world will do in the next few years about climate change. I am waiting to see if there will ever be a wholesale societal shift, a connecting of the dots between what we do on a personal level and the repercussions of those actions when taken on a societal level. I feel I’m seeing a bit of this in the discussion following the Fort McMurray wildfire. I had been waiting for the “it’s karma” judgements to be numerous and loud, but although there has been a bit of that, it’s largely been shut down by people rightly pointing out the hypocrisy of such statements, so now I feel I’m waiting to see if any of this translates into actual change in day-to-day behaviour … and whether any of it will make any difference anyway, or if it’s simply too late. (Which, my goodness, is rather a glum and weighty way to end this comment … sorry! 🙁 ).
    Marian recently posted…On Clothing and SewingMy Profile

    • Marian says:

      Oh, and I also meant to say that I think making the world a more beautiful place is such a wonderful goal 🙂 . I hope you share the ways you do this.

    • Rita says:

      I have been having some conversations with others about climate change. I’m a little disheartened by the ways in which I see people all around me adapting. Rather than feeling alarmed at the changes we all see, it’s more like: “Yay! Warm weather. Go climate change!” I suspect that comes more from a feeling of powerlessness than anything else, but it makes me feel that when it comes to this particular issue, the dystopian novelists may have it right: We will find ways to keep on living in the environment we have, rather than drastically changing the way we live to keep the changes from happening. The changes will likely not seem horrible to those who are younger than us, because they won’t have known a different world. I know I’m writing in hugely broad strokes, and as if the changes are dramatic. They aren’t, in the day-to-day, and that’s why so few are alarmed. I’m not sure what might have to happen for anything substantial to happen with respect to this issue. Feeling more and more like an old person lamenting the passing of the good old days. While I tend to think that’s a false narrative about most things, when it comes to the environment and climate, I don’t think it is.

  2. Shannon says:

    I’ve never seen that book before – I like the style of the illustrations. I’ll have to check it out next time I’m at the bookstore…so no spoilers please on the specific details of the story. ha! 😉 Your flowers are beautiful, as is your desire to make an impact on the world. I think you’ve already done your share by raising your kids, but I get that you want to do more, and I know you will do it. 🙂
    Shannon recently posted…Ghost Of Information Enjoyment PastMy Profile

    • Rita says:

      I think I might have given most of it away, but the illustrations are lovely! The details on how Miss Rumphius finances her life of travel, followed by retirement in a sweet little house by the sea are fuzzy (well, really, non-existent)–but it’s such a nice fantasy.

      As for world impacts–yes, I’ve made raising my children my first priority since they were born, and I did think of it as my way of contributing to making the world a better place. But I’m too young (and restless–hah!) to retire quite yet. I hope I’m always wanting to make whatever little corner of the world I’m in a better place.

  3. Josh says:

    Lupines thrive so well and are so ubiquitous in the Alaskan interior that I was shocked to learn they are an invasive species- whatever that means anymore. Maybe Miss Rumphius traveled quite a ways from Maine.

    I think it’s so hard to know when to push the river, and when not to.

    FYI you already made the world a more beautiful place the day you were born, but feel free to do more. 😉

    • Rita says:

      Thanks, Josh. 🙂

      I know that lupines grow wild, and the book made it seem as if all one has to do is throw seeds and they spread everywhere. That’s why I’ve always been bewildered by my less-than-thriving lupines. But maybe the climate here isn’t hospitable to it. I think Portland, Oregon is quite warmer than Portland, Maine?

      And I agree: It is hard to know when to push and and when not to. Have struggled with that my whole life.

  4. Kari says:

    Your commenters are so much smarter than I am, you do know this right?
    First of all, there were like three grammatical errors in my first sentence, so there’s that.
    But also, when I read blog posts I comment on things like this:

    I love that flower because it looks so pretty AND it also looks like a sex toy.
    Also, I loved that book and used to own it.
    So then I start to wonder, what happened to that book anyway??
    Also, Cooney was my first ever boyfriend’s last name.

    There has to be a name for what is wrong with me.
    Please say you still love me.
    Kari recently posted…The BenchMy Profile

    • Rita says:

      Umm… you are my commenters. 🙂 And if Lisa’s comment is any indication, it might be that people are coming to my blog just to read your comments. Because I think they are probably more entertaining that my philosophical musings!

      Still, you might burn in hell because I will now never be able to look at a lupine in the same way again. 😉

      Will always love you. <3

  5. Lisa says:

    Well, Kari’s comment made me laugh, because at heart I am a twelve year old boy, and I agree, phallus flowers are funny.

    I don’t think I’ve ever read Miss Rumphius, and I know I have a real problem with waiting patiently for the fruits of my labors. But I love reading your thoughts on how literature connects to your real life. 🙂
    Lisa recently posted…Pink pillowsMy Profile

    • Rita says:

      I think that going out some evening with you and Kari would be the best fun I’ve had in a long time–because I have a soft spot for the humor and worldview of twelve-year-old boys (I really did love teaching middle school) and its kind of a wonderful thing to find that in grown women. 🙂

      As for waiting patiently: You and me both, sister. I pretty much suck at it. I think that’s why this flower so tickles me. I wasn’t waiting for it. I was focused on other things. And look what it did, all on its own! Probably BECAUSE I was focused on other things and not messing with it to death.

  6. Kate says:

    My mom used to read that to me! It was one of her favorites!! (You and my mom have a lot in common, so I guess I could say you and I have a lot in common.)

    Your lupine is absolutely beautiful and has me wanting to plant a few of my own but I think Kari may have ruined them for me. 😉
    Kate recently posted…We Are Magic*My Profile

  7. Katherine says:

    Kari’s comment has also changed the way I will see lupines from now on… 🙂

    To answer your last question, in the short term I am waiting for summer. All my kids under one roof, all day. Pool, backyard, bickering, messes, trips to the library- all of it. I’m excited.
    Katherine recently posted…All Those Precious Memories…My Profile

    • Rita says:

      Are you out for summer now? I really loved summer when my kids were in the elementary years. Yeah–pool, Otter pops, sidewalk chalk, beach, library. And even the bickering. Enjoy!

  8. May says:

    OH, you ARE Miss Rumphius! You have planted–and I know you’ve planted well. Let that beautiful lupine be a promise to you. It may be a lone beauty right now, but with time you will see more and more of the beauty that you have planted come to fruition. Here is to a field of lupine goodness in the not too distant future!
    May recently posted…Modern Day Mulberry BushMy Profile

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