Friday, January 21, 2011

Tale of the Ranunculus

via Jane.siet @ Flickr
It's been a while since I've written about Flora and Fauna, and the spring flower catalogs are getting me in the mood for blooming colorful stuff! So, I thought I'd tell you my Tale of the Ranunculus.

This story is from the days when my Turkish wasn't so great, so you'll have to forgive the fill-ins. I don't remember why we were headed up to the mountains that afternoon either, but my inlaws loaded us into the back of their car. DH and I settled in for a ride. 

The side of the road was scattered with small, stuccoed homes, all faded to a washed out beige by the strong Mediterranean sun and covered in grey dust from passing traffic. The real scenery was further out, in the foothills around us.

I was focused on the silver glimmer of faraway olive groves when the Romork tractor pulled out in front of us. My father-in-law clicked his cheek, as if he was calming his horse, and downshifted to accomodate the farmer. A few cars were winding down the opposite side of the road, so we waited for them to pass. We were about to cross into the other lane when my mother-in-law demanded we stop instead. (We always did what she said.)

A few minutes later, we were reversing to a village house surrounded by a low, concrete block wall. No one had bothered to stucco the wall and along the top, someone had assembled a collection of old olive oil cans. A sight hardly worth stopping for. 

My mother-in-law got out and purposefully went over to one of the cans. A curious face poked through a curtained window and then quickly reappeared to welcome us at the wall.

Here I'll paraphrase:

MIL: What a lovely flower this is!
The ruffled, blood-red bloom barely lifted it's head over the top of the can, but my sharp-eyed MIL had seen it when we passed at 30 mph.
Peasant: Thank you! It's a (I don't remember what she called it!).
MIL: Where did you get it?
Peasant: (I got the gist that it was a wildflower.) You're welcome to take this one!
She flashed a toothless smile at all of us and we were on our way, rusty, yellow can in hand.

I felt sad taking the only spot of color from that woman's world. It was my first lesson in "don't admire it too much, because they'll give it to you." But the peasant woman's smile and generosity have stayed with me long after the flower died, so maybe she had the right idea.

In the language of flowers, ranunculus symbolizes radiant charm. It belongs to the buttercup family and does grow wild. It's also poisonous to livestock, so I wonder if the woman was weeding her fields as she potted them up for herself. I'm sure she never guessed I'd be writing a blog post about her all these years later!

Anyone else have a buttercup story to tell?
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9 comments:

Katie Mills said...

what a great story! One thing I did notice and love was the generosity in that culture and county. No buttercup stories here. Besides the usual hold it under your chin to see if you like butter...;)

Old Kitty said...

I absolutely adore rununculus - adore them!! I can never grow one successfuly but I love em - I think they're beautiful!!! Oh but I also do like a field of ordinary yellow buttercups!!!

I never knew rununculus were poisonous to livestock!!! Thanks for the info!!

This is a really lovely story, thanks for sharing here - I don't have a buttercup story - except to say that I think the word buttercup is just lovely! Take care
x

The Golden Eagle said...

I love the picture!

That's a great story.

LTM said...

Oh, I LOVE that story! And look what a beautiful writer you are... :o) That Rununculus reminds me of the Camelias we have all over the place here~

so beautiful. Your post is like your little flower to us~ :o) <3

Dominique said...

Thanks for sharing.

It's weird that you mentioned this. In the story I'm working on, one of the characters mentions Ranunculus asiaticus several times. Quite the coincidence.

Deniz Bevan said...

What a great little story! I'm trying to remember if I have a similar one, but the only thing that comes to mind at the moment is the conversation my family and I had with a little old village woman in a mountainside road outside of Kastamonu. She was doing oya, which was exciting in itself, but we asked her a little about her village, cos it looked so picturesque and she said "you should see it in winter, you wouldn't say that!"
Of course, we didn't try to tell her about Montreal winters [g]
By the way, gave you an award!

MT said...

What a lovely old woman. She reminds me of my neighbors. My yard is full of their 'starts'. :)

Deniz Bevan said...

My mum says they might call it a dugun cicegi (sorry, no Turkish characters at the moment, but I guess you can guess what they are? [g])!

DEZMOND said...

ah, people in my country also have that habit - if you admire something openly they give it to you right away :) So be careful what you admire :)

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