Thursday, March 16, 2017

A Capful of Violets

I bundled up warmly at noon today, winding a fleecy scarf around my head, pulling on my old down jacket and my work boots.  The sun was bright in a blue sky, but the air had a chilly bite.
The path at the edge of the meadow was lined with lush green grass despite the recent frosts, a bit squelchy underfoot. 
I paused for a few moments to watch the clear waters of Spruce Pine Creek splashing over the cobbled creek bed, noted a robin bouncing cheerfully from branch to branch of a small sycamore.

I got myself rather clumsily across the wet ditch that divides two fields, strolled on a few yards and saw them: the first wild violets of springtime, short-stemmed, sprawling on the damp earth.
Kneeling there, camera in hand, I was swept back in time to another March day, another place.

It was warm in Grampa Mac's dining room, cozier than in the north facing rooms where my younger sister and I were living with our parents before they built the little house along the road.
Mother had pulled a chair close to the edge of the metal register which let heat billow into the room from the wood furnace in the cellar. I leaned against her knees while she gently combed the tangles from my long, freshly shampooed hair. 
The window behind us looked onto the back porch; from the metal roof icicle melt dripped onto a steadily shrinking bank of snow. Now and then a long spear of ice let go of the overhanging roof, shattering with a high brittle shiver of sound.

From beyond the kitchen the woodshed door was opened and quickly shut again with a muffled clang, followed by the heavy tread of booted feet up the three steps to the kitchen door.
Grampa Mac crossed the narrow kitchen, paused a moment on the threshold of the dining room to pull off his heavy mittens. 
The collar of his blanket-lined denim 'barn frock' was turned up to meet the 'earlappers' of his woolen cap, his face was ruddy from the cold; he brought with him the fresh scent of sun and snow and March wind, mingled with his usual aura of cows, hay, and wood smoke.

Mother laid aside the comb as Grampa Mac leaned down and commanded, "Take off my cap!"
Puzzled by this strange request I did nothing. Grampa's head was at eye level, covered by the faded buffalo plaid cap, squares of blue and black, brim twisted by seasons of outdoor work in all weather.
The felted wool had picked up a few cow hairs, a powdering of chaff.

Grampa Mac raised his head enough to smile at my bewilderment. "Go on," he urged, 'Pull off my cap!"  I tugged at the cap which came off leaving his thick grey-white hair standing in shaggy peaks.
Lying neatly in the crown of the cap, warm against the dingy flannel lining, lay a bunch of purple violets. I gathered them gently, looked up inquiringly into Grampa Mac's blue eyes.

It was the end of maple sugaring season and Grampa Mac had hitched the team of work horses, Dick and Babe to the work sled to bring sap buckets down from the sugar house to be washed and stacked away for another year.
In a sheltered hollow along the woods road, he noted a patch of bare ground where the first violets  made a brave stand.  Halting the team, he clambered from the sled and knelt to pick a bouquet. Needing both hands to drive, he considered a moment how to bring the delicate flowers home undamaged, then removed his cap and laid them safely there.

 I have picked spring violets in many places; the long-stemmed deep purple ones that appeared in a patch along the road from my parents' house; I've walked up Knox Hill to search out white ones on the slope where the painted trillium flourish.
I have found violets growing among the sagebrush in Wyoming.
Violets-- purple, yellow, white--thrive in Kentucky's springtime, popping up at the edge of my herb garden, clinging to the creek banks, thrusting up along the paths through the woods.

I delight in them, and cherish the memory of Grampa Mac who paused in his work to bring home a capful of violets for a little girl.


  1. What a lovely remembrance! Those old gruff farmers had their soft spots. Hope you always find violets, wherever you may be!


    1. Jane; Grampa Mac often stopped when walking around the farm to pick a little bouquet of wildflowers. I like to think he might have done that when my grandmother was alive, bringing them home to her.

  2. Lovely story, I found some in the church yard yesterday, always look out for them this time of year. Two different countries and yet the same violets in both....

    1. Thelma; During our recent binge watching of 'Escape to the Country' I was delighted to notice many familiar wildflowers growing on the banks of narrow lanes and at the edges of fields.

  3. What a sweet story.

    Happy Spring - FlowerLady

    1. Rainey; Our spring is capricious--March is an unpredictable month in each place we've lived.

  4. What a wonderful story - so richly told. I heard the footsteps, caught the scents, and felt the worn fabric of the hat to find the lovely surprise. Oh, those dear memories tug at the heart-strings. It's always the little things that shine the brightest in remembrance. Violets are truly the sweetest gifts. Thank you for sharing and thank you for your kindness regarding our little pup. xx Karen

    1. Karen; So true--I've forgotten many big holidays, but smaller special moments are very clear.
      Each time I read of someone losing a pet my heart is touched--its a particular kind of loss.

  5. A delightful memory! Even an ambitious violet would find it next to impossible to push up through the amount of snow that is here in Vermont, both north and south. It was a true gullywhumper!

    1. Mundi; I remember that some of our biggest snows in the Champlain Valley occurred in March and even in April. Surely it is time for mud season in Vermont!

  6. Lovely story, beautifully written. It reminded me of my husband, who used to bring me flowery treasures in much the same way.

  7. Hildred; I have a spray of tiny wild pink rosebuds crumbling to dust in my Bible--how Jim got them home while riding a horse, I can't imagine!