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  • Writer's pictureM. Linda Graham

Retirement Day #1765: The Violets are Blooming

My brothers and I stayed with Uncle Stu and Aunt Tommy when Mom gave birth to my sister. The day also happened to be Easter. To preoccupy the herd, my Aunt and Uncle organized an Easter Egg hunt in their large backyard. I was 3 – soon to be 4, competing against a cohort of 4 older brothers. When the hunt began, I didn’t really understand the goal – but my competitive brothers certainly did, making short work of finding all the eggs. Taking pity on confused me, Uncle Stu used the toe of his polished shoe to point to a cluster of vibrant violets with a deep-purple egg in the middle: “well, looky there, waddaya see, hmmm?” Enchanted by the dark green juxtaposed with the rich purple egg cradled in a bloom of violets, I just stood there, slack-jawed with awe. That “photo” is embedded in my head. I don’t think I realized I was supposed to pick the egg up – and I certainly didn’t want to destroy the beauty of the composition. Without warning, one of my brothers swooped in to scoop up the prize, and phhhhhttttt- picture gone. Uncle Stu poofed on his cigarette with a disappointed “well damn.”

The Muse of Violets smote me 60+ years ago in Uncle Stu’s backyard - we’ve been bonded ever since.

These tiny imitation orchids offer delicate colors, a vaguely fresh aroma, prolific tenacity, and modest charm, exuding elegance, sweetness, a tingle of sadness, and a shy, daring hope. DID YOU KNOW:

·       Violets are the state flower of Illinois [my home state], Wisconsin, New Jersey, and Rhode Island.

·       There are 500 species of violets- many are used to make perfumes, syrups, and candies; they are also brewed in teas, baked into desserts, and added to soups and salads. Speaking from experience, fresh violets are crunchy, with a peppery-sweet in flavor.

·       Historically, violets signify modesty, subtlety, thoughtfulness, grace, humility, and innocence. The favorite flower of Queen Victoria, violets became “the” flower gifted to newlyweds during the 19th century in Great Britain.

·       Violets have deep Christian connotations: “Viola odorata” translates to “Our Lady of Modesty,” referencing Mary’s devotion. Legend has it that the first violet blossomed when Gabriel told Mary of the Messiah’s impending birth, thereby linking the violet to Gabriel’s protective and communicative angelic role. 

·       Violet is the color used in reference to the Sahasrara, or crown chakra, whose energy speaks of awareness, enlightenment, divinity, peace, and liberation.

·       In Native American cultures, violets are often symbolic of clarity within the self. A Haudenosaunee legend asserts that the violet is a child born from both earth and sky. Because of this, the “violet” child, is considered to be a balance of harmony and the mediator between heaven and earth – therefore, a symbol of those that are neither here nor there, but virtually…everywhere, and a sign of the powerful spirit of opportunity. 

·       As a staunch ally, I was tickled to learn that violets hold significance as symbol of feminine love within the LGBTQ+ community. This connection goes back 2000yrs to the poet Sappho.

For me? Shortly after my sister was born, my mother inadvertently established “Linda’s” birthday cake: pale green buttercream icing on an angel food cake, decorated with real violets.

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