Today’s voyage through my abecedarium has me visiting the valley of V. And while the topic may be more suited to Spring than almost-Autumn, today I’m musing about violets.
This weekend is our annual neighborhood block party and I’ve been mildly amused at all the outdoor fix-up projects folks have been involved in over the last couple weeks. The last minute efforts to spiff things up in preparation for when everyone will be hanging out outdoors all day. Being a highly-sensitive extreme introvert, the event itself is not even remotely one of my favorites, but it does remind me why I love this eclectic grouping of folks gathered on this single block in this fair metropolis. We are all so different. We have to search deep for more than surface kinship, and frankly it’s not always easy to find. But that’s really okay with me. Because it helps me remind me to see the bigger picture. We’re all just pretending to be human, and different, and separate; and although some believe that more passionately than others; as Ram Dass so insightfully pointed out “we’re all just walking each other home.”
At this point you may well be wondering what any of this has to do with violets. I’m getting there. But if you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time you understand patience is a virtue when dealing with the musings of my mind. We never travel the straightforward path.
Many of my neighbors prescribe to the belief that a meticulously manicured lawn, often enhanced with complex chemical regimes, is a thing of beauty. This is not a view I share. We all have tiny tiny tiny postage-sized lots, so the amount of area available for perfect lawn cultivation is far more limited than you might imagine. Still, it’s enough area to allow me to enjoy a bit of bohemian expression. My lawn is filled with wild violets, and clover, and an occasional path of thyme.
There was a time when early lawns were designed to have pretty things pop up in them, and clover was even included in early seed mixes. How far we’ve travelled from that route to one that, according to one pro-wilder, “aspires to artificially perfect, eco-insensitive, mono-cultural, and globally warming.” Things, of course, are changing these days, and more people are embracing more natural and xerophilious plants. Alas, not all my neighbors whole-heartedly support this trend.
I, on the other hand, truly love wild violets, with their heart-shaped leaves and pretty Spring blossoms. Bonus points because they offer some pollination assurance. Native bees often find patches of wild violets in the Spring, and decide this may well be a good place to hang out, thereby offering assistance to later-flowering plants. And you know I love those bees!
There are more than 75 native species of violets in North America, and hundreds more that have been hybrid. So there’s room for all kinds of violet love.
Greek myth tells that when Zeus’s wife Hera became jealous of his affair with Io, he turned Io into a white heifer to protect her, and then created the sweet-scented violet for her to eat and enjoy.
Violets also have long been important in herbalism. They were often thought to cure hangovers, and ancient Romans sometimes wore head wreaths made from violets when hungover. Greeks used the plants to induce sleep, calm anger, and strengthen the heart. Violets also contain a great deal of natural sugar and have earned a strong position in the culinary arts. They’re crystalized, made into syrups and marmalades, and of course simply enjoyed as decorative additions to salads and confections.
In Victorian floriography violets connoted modesty, virtue, affection, innocence. They certainly get a five-star rating in my book.
What about you? Love violets? Love your neighbors? Ever muse about how the V sign came to be the peace sign? (See I warned you my mind moves in non-linear directions!) What V word is inspiring/confusing/intriguing you this moment? Do tell – you know I love to hear.