Friday, September 23, 2016

The Thistle

The Bull Thistle @ Mt. Hope Chronicles


We have been observing the bull thistles in our field during each morning walk before symposium. We exclaim in delight when the purple crowns appear, and the kids have chosen the thistle for drawing in their nature journals a couple times (though they are hazardous to handle).


I found the above quote from an essay by Mary Oliver, because Mary Oliver always says what needs to be said about anything, profoundly, I might add.

If that isn’t quite enough for you, how about the beauty in this poem?

The singular and cheerful life
of any flower
in anyone’s garden
or any still unowned field–

if there are any–
catches me
by the heart,
by its color,

by its obedience
to the holiest of laws:
be alive
until you are not.

pale violet bull thistle,
morning glories curling
through the field corn;

and those princes of everything green—
the grasses
of which there are truly
an uncountable company,

on its singular stem
to rise and ripen.

What, in the earth world,
is there not to be amazed by
and to be steadied by
and to cherish?

Oh, my dear heart,
my own dear heart,
full of hesitations,
questions, choice of directions,

look at the world.
Behold the morning glory,
the meanest flower, the ragweed, the thistle.
Look at the grass.

Mary Oliver, The Singular and Cheerful Life (Evidence: Poems)

I’m a little partial to the thistle because I am part Scottish (my maiden name is of Scottish origin), and the thistle is the national flower of Scotland. But why?, you might ask. Why the thistle? I didn’t know, so I had to do a little research. Legends, heraldry, poetry. Good stuff. But what I loved most was the Latin Motto of the Order of the Thistle:


(No one attacks me with impunity)

This led to a search for the definition of impunity. No one has impunity (freedom from punishment) where a thistle is concerned, that’s for sure.

And Latin. Ah, Latin. My eldest son immediately translated “nemo” into “no one” and said that Captain Nemo of the Nautilus in 2,000 Leagues Under the Sea specifically took that name because of its Latin meaning. (And, of course, the Nautilus also has Latin meaning.)


The kids sketch in their nature journals while I read aloud from Shakespeare Stories after our quick morning walk, but I felt like I needed to join them on this one, even if my sketching leaves much to be desired. I’m setting the example that it is okay not to be excellent at something. We do it anyway, with a cheerful attitude…

nemo me impune lacessit @ Mt. Hope Chronicles

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