Fluffy Meadows


Early June rains kept the ground too wet for mowing during our Vermont visit, so the pastures were beautifully overgrown and full of wildflowers. I took my two grandsons for a nature hike up the hill to share my love of wildflowers and the surprising names we give them. They giggled when I held buttercups under their chins to see if they loved butter, and both enjoyed the ragged robins fluttering like pink feathers in the breeze. The five year old considers himself a horticulturalist (his word), and he proceeded to give me alternate names for each of the flowers. Purple vetch became white horses, and wild parsnip became yellow stars. His versions were certainly in the spirit of wildflower naming, which is based on local observations and customs going back centuries. The same flower in a different locality (or language) will often have a different name. The orange paintbrushes we picked are also called devil’s paintbrushes and orange hawkweed. The two year old had the last word, though. He was more tuned in to the sensual experience of the meadow, smelling and caressing each flower he picked. Stepping into the tall grass in pursuit of pink fleabane, he petted the stalks and flowers around him and smiled. “Fluffy,” he said, and it struck me how accurately that adjective fit the meadow—soft and full enough to lie down in comfort.