They are everywhere now. Hints of color or bold dashes. Lush green. Deep yellow, blue, purple, and orange. After watching the gardens I pass on my way to work unfold, I finally remembered to tuck my camera in my pocket so I could remember this joy next winter when we are once again smothered in snow and ice.
I was so hesitant to photograph other people’s flowers that I waited until I reached more quiet back streets to finally take out my camera, passing by some of my favorite gardens in the process. How silly when I stop to think of it: passing cars wouldn’t care a bit. And yet the feeling of intruding on another person’s private space is palpable and I expect any moment for them to come out and tell me off.
But on my walk home I was too distracted by the new emergence of flowering trees – I would swear they weren’t blooming when I passed them in the morning – to care what anyone thought. Midway through photographing the second flowering tree, a woman my age pushing a stroller stopped walking to give me time to finish a photograph. As soon as I realized she was there I leaped out of the way, but instead of passing me by she stopped to tell me of the bloodroot flowers growing a few houses down.
Indeed, the white flowers I had photographed in the morning were bloodroot, or Sanguinaria canadensis, and they are apparently toxic. They can also be used as a red dye, but since one of the (questionable) alternative uses of bloodroot is to kill skin cancer cells, it wouldn’t be my first choice to use on something I will have next to my skin.
Now that I’ve overcome whatever disinclination I first had about photographing other people’s flowers, the camera comes with me everywhere. I’m hoping that by taking pictures of plants I pass in gardens, in the park, in the cracks of the sidewalk, or wherever they find a foothold, I will slowly start learning to identify what grows in our urban environment. This is all part of a master plan to forage for both food and dye stuffs, since my ability to garden is currently contained to pots and whatever I can convince my parents to grow in their garden in Maine. And who knows, maybe I’ll meet some kindred spirits; there’s nothing that invites conversation with strangers like doing something out of the ordinary in a public space. I still remember the person foraging for crab apples from a tree on the main street of a small Maine town who was more than happy to tell me what she was up to – those crab apples make excellent pickles, apparently!