By Jim Poling
Nature regularly shows us that life doesn’t have to be as complicated as we sometimes make it. It’s showing us again this month with a spectacular display of one of its simplest, most modest wildflowers.
The common daisy is straightforward, inspirational beauty sometimes called sunshine on the ground. It is in full bloom in June, and especially abundant this year along roadsides, in fields and other open areas.
The beauty of the daisy is its simplicity. It has a radial arrangement of 15 to 30 small and thin white petals surrounding a bright yellow central disc. There are 23,000 species of daisies but the one we see in this part of the world is usually the ox-eye daisy.
In sunshine or in shade clumps of daisies radiate innocence and purity, plus an unpretentious cleverness.
Ancient civilizations considered the daisy clever because of its usefulness. Four thousand years ago, the Egyptians nurtured daisies in their substantial gardens for medicinal uses and for decoration.
A variety of peoples throughout the centuries used daisy extracts to treat wounds, coughs, colds and bronchitis. They also have been used for kidney and liver problems and for skin problems, including inflammations.
Henry the Eighth, the English king who had six wives, ate daisies to stem stomach-ulcer pains and other ailments.
There is a growing daisy extract market today, driven by a ‘return to nature’ movement which favours herbal remedies over synthetic medicines.
The name daisy comes from the Anglo-Saxons whose ‘daes eage’ meant ‘days eye’, a reference to the flower closing its head at night and opening it first thing in the morning.
The Romans associated the flower with the nymph Belides who turned herself into a daisy to escape the sleazy attention of Vertumnus, the god of seasons.
The Vikings associated the flower with motherhood and childbirth, while Celts believed that when a child died the gods sprinkled its grave with daisies to help relieve the grief of the parents.
Christian religions associated the daisy with the Virgin Mary because it symbolized chastity, humility and innocence.
I understand the symbolism attached to the daisy over many centuries. However, I see something else.
The daisy reminds us of what lies ahead. Although we are in the heart of summer, the daisy’s white head and golden face remind me that changes are not that far off.
Daylight hours already have begun to get shorter and just six weeks from now the greenery of the trees will begin turning to the golds and reds of autumn. Much later, the leaves will fall and the landscape will take on the whiteness of the daisy’s outer petals.
That seems to be depressing, wildly negative thinking. What sane mind thinks of cold and snow when we have just started enjoying the sunshine and heat of summer?
Seeing those white and gold daisies as reminders of colder, darker days ahead is more mindful than negative. It’s possible to soak up the beauty of flowers and other joys of summer while being mindful of coming changes.
Change is important because it is inevitable. It is the most basic law of nature, yet many of us don’t like to think about it. We like things to remain the same.
We live in a world of change that is not just unprecedented, but is accelerating. We see evidence of climate change almost every day. Many aspects of our culture – our politics, our communication styles, even our religious institutions – are undergoing tremendous change but we spend much time arguing about them and too little thinking about how to deal with them.
Nature teaches us to accept change and to adjust to changing conditions. The beautiful daisies of summer are just one part of nature’s many lessons.
The daisies tell me something else. They remind me of how lucky we are to live in a country of four seasons.
Each season brings us different experiences, different foods, different clothing. We get to swim and water ski in July and skate and snow ski in January.
Each season brings its own trait. Summer gives us exuberance, autumn reverence, winter perseverance and spring hope and renewal.
We are lucky folks, we Canadians.