I started this thinking that I would write a poem… And I wrote 2, that didn’t really work. Not on any level.
Then I thought I’d write about the numerous “Unknown Soldiers”. Those that are buried, without their identity marking their final resting place. More specifically, I became interested in the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, and the Ceremonial Guard, and all of the symbolism that encompasses
Next I turned my thoughts to the poppy, and its symbolism. And then I started reading, not writing.
I sifted through a lot of information; and I read things that I had not known before. Things that I was not taught in school, nor had a previous inclination to lean about.
Most everyone knows that the poppy inspired “In Flanders Fields”, by John McCrae, a Canadian surgeon. He wrote it on May 3rd, 1915.
But… I didn’t know why so many poppies grew around the dead bodies. I didn’t know that it has tremendous historical significance. I mean, of course – most everyone knows that poppies grew where the soldiers died. But that’s all I knew. I was suddenly curious as to why this was the case.
During the Napoleonic wars in the early 19th century, it was documented that “bare land was turned into fields of blood red poppies, that were literally growing around the bodies of the dead soldiers”.
Then, in 1914, poppies sprung up again, in fields in Northern France and Flanders. Apparently, the poppy is the only plant that would grow at all, in those horrid conditions; in those otherwise ‘barren’ battle fields. It has something to do with the earth being “turned up” and seriously disturbed. The seeds germinate when finally exposed to light… So, they must already be there, waiting, to be “upset” – in order to grow. Also, somehow; very symbolic: the beautiful flower that rises and reaches for the sun, the light, as it floods the battle field with blood red poppies.
I read about the continuing controversies surrounding the use of wearing artificial read poppies. More so in other countries… The debates surrounding the “appropriate” use of the poppy wasn’t my primary interest, so I read about the significance of the use of other poppies.
I read about the (often controversial) use of artificial white poppies, apparently used to “promote” peace, and recognize civilian deaths… I read about artificial purple poppies, worn to acknowledge the animals that died in Service. (Apparently, this has transformed into a purple paw print that can be worn all year-round.)
I just kept reading and reading. Instead of writing. But, I am now a little more well informed about our historical, and current; relationship – both actual and symbolic – with the beautiful red poppy.