In-Between Spaces and Waiting Places: Identifying Wildflowers in May

This is a very late post but when life gets busy, unfinished blog posts have to wait their turn. I loved reminiscing about the wonderful month of May while writing this post and going through my photos! There were so many flowers and too little time… Sorrels, campions, fumitories, archangels, clovers, and crane’s-bills… The suburbs were alive with colours, scents, and wildflowers in all shapes and sizes. I made 40 new identifications in May and I paged trough Wildflowers of Britain and Ireland every chance I got.

I started looking for wildflowers while Ireland was still in lockdown and in a Waiting Place. This limited my search to the five kilometres around my house. Retrospectively, I can say this was probably the best way to start my project. It felt like such a shame to not be ‘out there’, at first, out in ‘nature’, in ‘the wild’. I felt stuck in my suburban neighbourhood with its streets, houses, cars, sidewalks, and well-worn footpaths. Little did I know that, a) had I gone ‘out into the wild’ I might have had a much tougher time finding and identifying wildflowers, and b) after three months I would have barely begun to identify all the diverse plants and wildflowers in my neighbourhood. Not only are there numerous wildflowers in my area but various established garden escapes are also present. Wild Flowers of Britain and Ireland is comprehensive in the sense that it includes common garden escapes and established introduced species. The suburbs are also more diverse than I initially believed. It’s not all gardens and lawns, although these are undeniably interesting. There are rivers, marshes, garbage dumps, woodlands, disturbed ground, walls, fields, parking lots, farmlands, abandoned lots, sidewalks… Each a unique habitat. I’m intrigued and genuinely impressed by the plants that find a way to grow and thrive in these in-between spaces.

In-between spaces are generally not well-loved by humans and I’m reminded of Dr. Seuss’s words about The Waiting Place…

‘…for people just waiting.

Waiting for a train to go

or a bus to come, or a plane to go

or the mail to come, or the rain to go

or the phone to ring, or the snow to snow

or waiting around for a Yes or No

or waiting for their hair to grow

Everyone is just waiting.

Waiting for the fish to bite

or waiting for wind to fly a kite

or waiting around for Friday night

or waiting, perhaps, for their Uncle Jake

or a pot to boil, or a Better Break

or a string of pearls, or a pair of pants

or for a wig of curls, or Another Chance

Everyone is just waiting.’

from Oh, the Places You’ll Go!

Waiting Places are in-between spaces. A crack between the wall and the pavement, neither here nor there. It could be the uncertainty of being in-between jobs. Or the surreal space just as one’s about to fall asleep. Or the uncanny sensation one sometimes gets when travelling, when you’re literally between places. But waiting is part of life, for all things, and there’s value in waiting too. Waiting, either actively or passively, is simultaneously an act of acceptance and resistance and anticipation. Accepting the discomfort of uncertainty, yet resisting the urge to become stuck while anticipating change.

I’m not a fan of waiting. I’m currently in what feels like a very long waiting period. A colleague gave me Oh the Places You’ll Go! shortly before we moved to Ireland. She told me that I’m in a Waiting Place now but it will be time for the next adventure soon (referring to our life in Ireland). I believed this would be so, that this in-betweenness would pass as soon as we set our feet on the emerald island. This was not the case. Despite all the wonderful adventures, all the new experiences, and the many things we’ve done and accomplished, there’s still a sense of being in a Waiting Place as we learn to navigate uncertainties.

This prolonged in-between state, although painful at times, has been good for me. I can no longer see things as Black and White, Here and There. South Africa and Ireland. Home and Away. Certain and Uncertain. I found this yellow welsh poppy caught in a crack between the wall and the pavement. The closer one looks at the crack, the more one realises the poppy is not, in fact, ‘caught’ but that a whole different world opens up within this space. A world of living things, of roots and soil, organisms, cells, all thriving. The crack in the pavement is a universe of possibility to the poppy seed. Anyway, that might or might not mean something to you. I suppose we find the things we look for. 🙂 I’ll end ramble with a lovely quote from Richard Mabey about weeds, plants that thrive in in-between places:

‘The wild gatecrashes our civilised domains, and the domesticated escapes and runs riot. Weeds vividly demonstrate that natural life – and the course of evolution itself – refuse to be constrained by our cultural concepts. In doing so they make us look closely at the very idea of a divided creation.’

Richard Mabey – Weeds: How Vagabond Plants Gatecrashed Civilisation and Changed the Way We Think About Nature

On a lighter note, I read in the news that it’s been one of the rainiest months of May on record here in Ireland. I can easily believe that. But despite the weather, some things carried on the way they always have. Eva the cat was involved in a feud with two magpies. I’m not sure who started it, it could have been either party, but both seemed determined to annoy the other. From early morning the magpies’ ke-ke-ke could be heard as they taunted and teased Eva, who refused to leave the garden. Eva wasn’t the only cat in the area enduring relentless harassment and humiliation. For weeks the magpies had built nests and bickered with other magpies but they had been living in relative peace with the neighbourhood cats until then. What had changed? I was standing in the garden one morning when I heard it. The chirping of hungry chicks. I saw the new parents fussing over their young in a tree next to our house… close to our cats favourite lookout spot. Eva and the magpie-parents must have reached an agreement of sorts as things calmed down after a week or so. Or perhaps the cats just weren’t keen to lurk about when it’s pouring outside…

Plants Identified

sheperd’s purse, herb bennet, petty spurge, ribwort plantain, yellow archangel, white ramping fumitory, common ramping fumitory, cornsalad, hedgerow cranes-bill, dove’s-foot crane’s-bill, spreading yellow-sorrel, hairy bittercress, black medick, red clover, wych elm, pink sorrel, germander speedwell, thyme-leaved speedwell, dusky crane’s-bill, welsh poppy, lords-and-ladies, common vetch, columbine, siberian bugloss, snow-in-summer, oil-seed rape, herb robert, creeping buttercup, laburnum, red campion, solomon’s-seal, leyland cypress, common whitebeam, lady’s mantle, wall speedwell, common chickweed, yarrow, wood speedwell, purple crane’s-bill (40)

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Thank you for visiting the Wild Library blog. If this is your first visit, you might also enjoy reading April’s Wildflower story – Whispering Trees and Forget-Me-Not Skies. You can subscribe to the blog below or follow me on Instagram for more books, plants, and stories.

Have a happy day,

Chantelle

7 thoughts on “In-Between Spaces and Waiting Places: Identifying Wildflowers in May

  1. What a beautiful post! You have inspired me to start looking at the wildflowers in our environment. I am amazed by the design and uniqueness of each flower, as well as the variety. When life was still at a fast pace, I did not notice all the beauty and detail. I think this waiting place helped me to gain perspective and look deeper with more appreciation and understanding.

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    • Thank you for sharing your thoughts, Emsia. So glad to hear this resonated with you. I agree, once you start looking, the variety and details are amazing. I’m looking forward to hear what you find 🙂

      Like

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