The Grief of Peonies

During my recent vacation, I read Helen Humphreys’ novel, The Lost Garden. It’s a story about the Women’s Land Army in Britain during World War II. “Land girls,” as they were called, were sent to the countryside to raise food, particularly potatoes, for hungry Britons during the war. Humphreys has a lyrical style and the novel is a beautifully written story of love and loss.

I was reminded of the passage below by the many collapsed peonies in Minnesota gardens this week.

The blooms are white and pale pink, grow upright for now, giant buttons of brilliance festooning green leafy tunics. But soon their heads will become too heavy for the thin, reed-like stalks on which they rise with such hope, and the peonies crash to the ground in a wave of grief. They are too much for themselves and soon they know it… There is something almost heroic in their reckless collapse. And there is nothing sadder than a crowd of stricken peonies, their heads full of rain.