Russell J.T. Dyer

Russell J.T. Dyer

Just Some Guy Hanging Around Europe

the works and musings of an american writer in europe • Updated: Aug 05, 2017 • hits: 53359 past month

Poppies!

writer: russell j.t. dyer;  posted:  April 8, 2014;  revised:  August 15, 2017;  readers in past month:  66
Poppies in a Field
More Poppies
More Poppies

When I was a boy, I remember seeing people wearing artificial poppy flowers on the lapels of their shirts and jackets. They were made of metal and not well designed—I didn’t realize they were supposed to represent a flower. I asked a woman who was giving them away, what they were. She gave me one and explained that they were poppy flowers. I had never heard of a poppy, but I let that go. I asked her what was the purpose of wearing them. She told me they were worn to remember those who had died in the wars. I pursued further by asking why a poppy flower symbolized that. She said that when the troops marched the roads in Europe, in particular in Italy, they saw poppy flowers in the Spring, lining the road sides. It gave them hope for peace.

I liked that sentiment. I didn’t see how hope for peace connects to remembering those who died in war, but I liked the image of colorful wild flowers cheering on troops fatigued by war. I don’t know how true was her story regarding the poppy flower, but it’s as good as any other legend or common knowledge as to the origin of a symbol in a culture.

I went decades without actually seeing a poppy flower. I may have seen photographs of them, but certainly not in person or growing wildly. They’re not a native flower of where I lived in the U.S. For me, a poppy flower was instead a metal and later a plastic broche some people wore at some time during the year. I knew not when, but accepted them when I saw them. I had no desire to wear one, nor did I feel any sentiment related to them.

When I first came to Europe, after surviving the war of my life—the oppression and stress I had endured that rose from my marriage and divorce, as well as living a life in which I did as I was told and not as I wanted—after the hurricane in New Orleans, the death of one of my best friends, and the difficult initial transition to Italian life, my first Spring here in Italy, I discovered the poppies. When I first saw them, riding in a car through a semi-rural area outside of Milan, I lit up and exclaimed, “Poppies!” I felt suddenly the sense of hope and peace that I was told that the soldiers felt when they marched these roads. I had changed my life from one of submission to one of freedom. I felt then very much so my freedom and saw the poppies as rejoicing with me and for me.

This past week, a friend took me to outside of Milan to photograph the poppies. There were a few farms with fields that were not yet plowed and planted for Spring. They were filled with flowering poppies and daisy like flowers that I suspect are chamomiles. Although I sneezed excessively walking through the fields to photograph the poppy flowers, it was satisfying to photograph them. They’re my little friends, my cheering section. They continue to cheer me in my sojourn to a happier life. I appreciate them.



Field of Wheat and Poppies in Magenta, Italy
Copyright 2014, Russell J.T. Dyer. All Rights Reserved.