|Queen Anne's Lace|
The park where I take a daily walk has a meadow that has been left to the wildflowers. This area, beside a small fishing pond, is contained but grows free. Here the tall grasses (that are already tasseling) and the yellow- and white-blossomed flowers, along with an occasional flash of purple, wave gently in the breeze that blows off the river. Lots of insects flit and buzz about and a family of red-winged blackbirds finds the spot to be just right for them.
As I walk past this fragrant area, I spot many feathery blooms of Queen Anne's lace. I remember as a young girl collecting stalks of this wildflower with my mother and bringing them home to dye. We would fill a jar with water, add a few drops of food coloring, stick in the stalks, and wait for the magic to happen.
Soon, the white blossoms would begin to turn blue or green or pink. I thought this was great fun and was reminded this morning of our little experiments with nature while reading Jean Hersey's August entry in her book The Shape of a Year.
Everywhere butterfly weed gives way to Queen Anne's lace, whose name comes to us from Henry VIII's day. During his gay revels, the King used to pursue the most attractive ladies of the court down the twisting paths of the famous maze at Hampton Court, causing shrieks of laughter that echoed back to the palace. When Anne became Queen, she heartily disapproved of all this, and ordered the maze cut down. Tulips, daffodils, and wild carrots were planted instead. And so, runs the tale, wild carrot acquired the name of Queen Anne's lace. The more sophisticated members of the court may have wondered at this roadside weed being brought into the formal palace gardens. But one of the charms of the Queen was her love for simple things.