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Looking Back

November 1949

In a world still picking up the pieces after the end of WW2, a minister's wife reflects on the memories brought to mind when she walks through the manse garden for the last time.


Memories In The Flowers

On Leaving The Manse Garden
By Mrs COLL MACDONALD, formerly of Logierait

It is not considered expedient for a minister, on his retiral, to settle in the parish where he has laboured. And so, with a wrench, he tears up his roots and sallies forth with his spouse to pastures new. The manse walls we may see again, and the old friends, but for me, the heartache was to leave the garden, where almost every plant spoke of kind givers for whom the gifts had become memorials.

The large patch of St John's Wort, for example, with its golden flowers at the garden gate, reminded me of the hard working sisters of a farmer, who gifted me the clump before their departure. But for years, pride of place was given to two bushes of Daphne Mezereum. These did not remind me of their pagan origin – a nymph saved from a satyr by being changed into a bush – but of the dutiful daughter of a bedridden mother who reared the plants and gave them to us. Their beauty and their fragrance willed the early bees to suck them and passers-by scented them from the road. They faded away but not before I had passed on some of their offspring to my friends.

My greatest struggle was to grow rosemary – for remembrance. The kind owner of a bush would frequently give me a piece when passing. “Plant that sprig; it should take root, for it has a ‘heel’. But if it doesn’t, come back and I shall give you more.” It would flourish for two or three years and then would come a killing frost, and in the spring I would find it had withered. Still I persevered. The legend of rosemary is a pleasing one, as the Italians tell it.  For was it not on a bush of this plant that the Virgin Mary was wont to dry the clothes of the infant Christ?  Hence the name, Rosemary. I persevered, till at last I found a cosy nook where it flourished, and its pungent perfume was a solace when shrubs were bare and flowers had vanished with the autumn storms.

For well over 25 years, an orange-coloured waxen creeper celebrated spring by profusely decorating the porch, then all at once it disappeared. I missed the plant for many years, then, when visiting an old friend in the south, I mentioned the loss. At once she exclaimed, “I shall send you the seeds in autumn, for I took a seed pod from your plant on my last visit.” And so the prodigal returned.

If you were to call in June, the month of roses, you would find the loveliest rose against the wall above the potato patch. How came it there? Two or three cuttings of a ‘La France’ rose from a nearby cottage were carelessly planted there, for I felt they might not grow. But one sprouted and, afraid it might die if transplanted, I left it there. Now it adorns the wall and is a thing of beauty to the worker in the scullery. It, too, is a memorial of duty done by a faithful daughter.

I struggled hard to grow Veronica beside the rosemary bush, for tradition tells us that was the name of the woman who pressed her handkerchief into our Lord’s hand to wipe his forehead when he was staggering under the cross. I failed, for the harsh winter winds were too unkind.

The colour of flowers is one of the wonders of nature, but more wonderful still are the memories that gather round them.

                   “Joy have I had; and going hence
                 I bear away my recompense.
                      In spots like these it is we prize
                              Our memory, feel that she has eyes
                             Then why should I be loth to stir?”


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