Foxgloves by Sarah Anne Childers
At the homestead my father takes my little girl across the road to pick daisies. They pluck white petals and fling them in a game she makes up, changing the rules as she goes because she can, he'll never call her on it. Then they examine the progress of the blackberries that lasso the brush. What will become fat finger-staining orbs after more time in the sun are still green nubs with tightly scrunched infant faces. Their transformation is inevitable and miraculous both.
There is a scraggly fence of barbed wire strung between low mossy posts. Beyond the fence to the south overgrown pasture tumbles roly-poly into forest sparse then dense before bumping into the Olympic Mountains rising jagged. (The Olympics continue to push toward the sky. They are old-but-young, still growing, bold with somewhere to be. Did you know? I keep this tidbit in my pocket and as with any good luck charm reach for it when I need reassurance. You can have it too; we’ll share.)
My daughter is drawn to the fence. In the city she navigates light rail stations and coasts her scooter across busy streets, but this barrier between mountains and country road puzzles her. What is in the pasture? Are we allowed to go? How would we get through? She wants answers but more so she wants the foxglove just over the fence. She'd like to smell the flowers. She'd like to pull the whole gangly plant from the grass by its furry stem. Perhaps a strand would survive to be plunked in the vase that sits in the center of the kitchen table but more likely she'd caress the weed beauty to bits like the poor dismantled daisies.
"Don't go so close," I admonish as she inches toward the foxglove. I mean the barbed wire, not the flower. "Don't touch ... you'll get hurt ... and your new coat." I hear the whine and wringing hands in my tone and am annoyed at myself. I glare at the foxglove. I’m annoyed at it too. Why is it being so difficult? Why isn't it growing over here on this side of the fence? As if if it was, we might put the gloves on, slipping our paws into the little purple bells with mottled insides to protect against the metal spikes so that we could climb through unscathed to discover what lies beyond the fence, besides more foxgloves and scattered mounds of cow poop - one of the few things in this world I know as truth.
I don’t remember if these desires (for foxgloves, for answers) occurred to us, me and my little brother, decades ago when we traipsed across this same fence whenever we pleased. We had no concern for clothing or skin, our passage through the parallel lines of barbs perfected to a fluid modern dance. Indeed, fence crossing was our art form. Whoever came first to the fence pulled up on the middle line while half standing on the bottom one to create a kid-sized hole as the other ducked and stepped with knees high but not too high. Once through, the crosser turned back to reach for the smooth, safe part of the wire still held aloft, taking its weight and its burden in that wordless sign that meant: now you.
Sarah Anne Childers is the online editor at luciajournal.com where she happily toggles between curating creatives as an editor and creatively curating ideas and the words they live in as a writer.