Sunday, May 29, 2011

Garlands of Flowers and the Sacred Charges of Memorial Day



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“..gather around their sacred remains and garland the passionless mounds above them with choicest flowers of springtime...let us in this solemn presence renew our pledges to aid and assist those whom they have left among us as sacred charges upon the nation’s gratitude, the soldier’s and sailor’s widow and orphan.”  -General John Logan, General Order No 11, 5 May 1868





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Saturday early afternoon in the sun out  front of the cottage at Searock, Mark is learning a Tommy Emmanuel song on his guitar called “Half Way Home.”  The flowers I’ve tended here make me feel half way home myself.  When we were in town earlier it was very busy, busy enough to remind us how good it is to just sit still.  




 It's “Memorial Day Weekend,”  and for many it is a three day chance to travel and party.  Perhaps those for whom the day was originally set aside to honor, those who served our country and sacrificed their very lives, would understand the nation’s search for freedom, joy and adventure when three days without work or school are joined together.



 This sun is more than the meteorologist predicted for today but the sky is not all blue; the horizon is milky layers of gray and cream white and the waters of the Pacific are shimmering with light and  shadows. We  have another Saturday errand to do, but as this sun is but a passing hour  we'll wait until the rain is closer.


 I’m encircled with flowers. There are small low blooms, tall fragrant iris, the columbine- each orange petal distinct in shape and curl- and white roses open and clustered so thickly I almost can’t see them as single flowers.  There are peach and golden rose buds and lavender, squat and purple blue in its prime.  One lone poppy gleams in front of the velvet violet salvia that the hummingbirds are so drawn to. 


I am reminded of times I've  bought little red poppies from veterans to commemorate this day. Anymore it seems as if this weekend is generally treated as simply a herald of the coming  summer and with all the harsh weather the country has endured, such a herald is a welcome call.  I've had my own heralds of late.  Yesterday a silver jumping of light alerted me to a school of dolphins moving north, and I’ve lost  count of the pelicans who’ve returned and made my heart leap.  



Earlier  this morning, I watched a woodpecker, quite well dressed with snowy white bib, handsome dark wings and red cap, drink and bathe in the deeper of the two bird baths.  As soon as  I moved behind my window in stealthy attempt to get my camera, he flew.

I look up from the page  where I am scribbling these thoughts and see the blooming maple blossoms bobbing with the breath of the waters below.  


The redwoods are tipped with the tender green of new growth and the limbs hang long and layered like a skirt over strong brown legs.  Lobelia and Santa Barbara Daisies push their way out of the beds and tangle in the amongst the ferns and foxgloves.  Many are the heralds of the new season.



The sounds of  traffic on the coastal route,  heavier  due to the three day weekend, remind us again that Monday is Memorial Day.  We both try to remember when Memorial Day was changed to a three day Federal Holiday?  Is it Memorial day that was originally called Decoration Day?  Neither of us were confident that  we knew or rightly remembered the origin and history of the holiday. I went inside to my computer to research the history and meaning of this day set aside.  I found this page on ways to  observe Memorial Day and on the banner was this quote : 
“..gather around their sacred remains and garland the passionless mounds above them with choicest flowers of springtime...let us in this solemn presence renew our pledges to aid and assist those whom they have left among us as sacred charges upon the nation’s gratitude, the soldier’s and sailor’s widow and orphan.”  -General John Logan, General Order No 11, 5 May 1868
I stepped back outside  to tell Mark what I had learned.  We had already planned to fly the flag, but I didn't know it was protocol to fly it at half mast until noon on Memorial Day.  I also learned about the  origin of the red poppies I  had remembered  buying from disabled veterans.  
It's been a sweet Saturday reprieve.  The rain  has held off.  The air is warm and wafts with  many mingled scents; peppermint and lavender, the big bay laurel leaves I pluck to flavor sauces and soups, and there's the cypress and roses, iris and salt breeze too. The air is good.  The earth is waking from her slumber and those that may are eager to venture out. 






 I pray  safe journeys for  Memorial weekend  travelers and hope that we as people do continue to commemorate the dead who have served not only with the choicest  flowers of spring but by keeping all our sacred charges...and may those who sacrificed be much more than half way home....

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7 comments:

Ryan Brady said...

Always a treat reading your posts. I'm on my way to SF via train and have been catching up on your blog. :)
What a great quote...Hope you two have a great holiday!

Cat said...

Refreshing words and pretty photos!

Exuberant Color said...

On the radio this morning they said it was originally called Decoration Day, started after the Civil War. That is what I remember calling it when I was a child of the 1940's.

John said...

Nicely put! a wonderful blend of remembrance and the reflections of nature that surround us. I hope you and Mark had a wonderful weekend.

Cranberry Morning said...

Hi Jeanette, Thanks so much for stopping in at Cranberry Morning and leaving a comment! I've been poking around your blog. Nice post for the Memorial Day weekend. It looks like you're also a lover of flowers and animals as I am. Because of your location, your flowers are way ahead of ours. My irises are just budding! So nice to meet you!♥

DebD said...

Hi Jeanette- thanks for visiting my blog and commenting. I loved all the flower pictures and thoughts. Hope you had a sweet memorial day.

CoastalCAGardener said...

Lovely words and even more lovely pictures. I'm playing web tourist because the weather is by far too wet for sunny CA. Cheers.