Backyard Foraging featuring Andover Trask from The Pioneer Issue
As a child, picking flowers in your great-grandmother’s backyard doesn’t feel like making memories. You don’t even think about the generations before you who have done the same, whether choosing blooms to dress a table or going out to gather berries and produce for a meal. At the time, it doesn’t feel like a sacred ritual that will connect you to loved ones for generations. It’s just picking flowers with Mema.
I can remember at the height of spring when the azaleas were in full bloom, walking around my Mema’s backyard picking out the brightest pink flowers to place in the little, paper cup I was given. She would show me which ones looked good to pick, how to pick and wipe off any bugs before gingerly handing me our treasure to put in our paper cup.
She told me flowers needed carbon dioxide to grow and that when we sing, we breathe out carbon dioxide. So we’d sing to the flowers as we picked them. Songs like Somewhere Over the Rainbow, Amazing Grace or Our Love is Here to Stay. Eventually, I would get distracted and have to add some dance moves to the songs and picking. Once the morning dew would start to dry and the fresh morning started to take a humid turn, we’d go inside and ‘arrange’ the flowers in our cups.
Typically picking flowers meant family was coming over for the day or just dinner. As a child, you don’t think twice about the dining table not being large enough and adding random chairs to corners or sitting at card tables spilling into the hallways. You don’t think about needing to redesign your dining space, you just sit down, eat and enjoy family.
If our extended family was coming, our cousins, then dinner called for an extra special celebration. We’d find the closest birthday or holiday and make a big to-do, even if the real celebration date wasn’t for weeks. We’d wrap random items in the house as ‘gifts’ and of course, a skit, song and dance was somehow involved. And of course, the flowers I had gathered with Mema earlier that day would move from room to room, wherever the most people could see.
Years later, my Mema and her life-long sweetheart we called Pop are gone, but their love remains forever. Most of the family and cousins have moved far away from that childhood memory but our love for one another remains. Because everyone is so spread out, it’s weddings or well-coordinated summer vacations that bring us together. But the rituals - rituals I didn’t even know were being created - still remain.
Mornings before friends or family stop by our house are spent picking flowers or greenery in the backyard. Now, it’s called foraging, but to me, it’s still just picking. I remember what to look for, where to pick and to brush off the bugs before putting the branches in my bag instead of a paper cup. There is no one to sing with now, but I still hum to the plants, to myself and think about all of those great hymns or songs from musicals we used to sing.
A few workshops have taught me how to arrange my findings better than what the paper cups would allow. I’ve traded the cup for vintage vases. But for the leftovers, I’ll grab a silly cup from a restaurant my husband collects and put the arrangement someplace he can see.
Evenings entertaining aren’t as frequent as they were then. Even if it’s just my husband and I eating takeout on the couch, the idea of celebration is still around. We’ll celebrate our day’s work or upcoming adventure. I married the right guy because the singing and dancing is still around too, even if it’s just our way of getting through washing dishes in the kitchen.
While it’s not the same as when I was a little girl, there is something a little sacred, a little special about these rituals that connects me to my family - even those who have passed or simply moved away. Now, with my husband and I expecting our first child, I can’t help but think what simple acts will eventually become traditions for her. I never want to underestimate the magic found in moments that look like an ordinary day.
Author, Katie O. Selvidge :: Photography by Sawyer Baird :: Design by Candice Beaty of Chancey Charm Weddings :: Floral Design by Forage and Fleur :: Hair & Makeup by Claudia Verduzzo :: Ribbon by Adorn Company :: Venue, The Farm at High Shoals :: Calligraphy & Paper Goods by Brush and Petal :: Featuring Andover Trask