04 February 2013

First Grade:  Y is for Yarrow

Dear First Grade,

Along the border of our garden, underneath the prickly red rose bushes, grows our good friend yarrow. Over hundreds of years, yarrow has been called some funny names: old man’s mustard, bad man’s plaything, snake’s grass, and seven years’ love. Here is the Queendom we call it the yes plant. Let me tell you why.

When yarrow first came to our garden, its seed arrived on the mane of a white horse. The horse had been eating the yarrow plant in a pasture far away, and when its master brought the horse inside the gates of our Queendom, the horse tossed its mane this way and that in greeting, and the yarrow seed flew off and landed next to the road by the roses.

The seed lied in wait many days, until a rain shower came and moistened the ground. The seed, no bigger than an ant’s head and as thin as paper, grew plump with moisture and then basked in the sun. Before a week was over, its first little shoot sprouted, and yarrow began its life in our garden. Yarrow grows very soft, feathery leaves which lie down flat on the ground. The leaves stretch out from a central point and lie in a circle one on top of the other.

One day a snail came slithering by and felt the soft, light texture of the leaves under her slimy muscle, and asked yarrow if she could bed down there for the day. “Yarrow, may I curl up under your leaves and sleep the sunny day away in your cool shade?”

“Yes”, answered yarrow, and lifted a leaf so snail could snuggle in.

A few days later two spider sisters came each with an egg sac on her back. “Yarrow” the spider sisters said, “May we hide our egg sacs under your feathery leaves while we go off hunting for insects? We will return before our babies hatch, don’t worry about that.”

“Yes”, answered yarrow again, and slid the egg sacs into hiding.

A worm tickled yarrow’s many roots that afternoon. The worm called up “Yarrow, may I make a home among your twisted white roots?”

“Yes,” yarrow replied.

Yarrow continued to grow more and more of her feathery leaves. The tips stretched out in each direction creating a lovely green, plump circle of foliage on the ground. Yarrow’s roots began to reach and stretch in all directions, and when they found a place they liked, they sent up a new patch of feathery leaves, and a brother or sister of yarrow was born.

Soon, there were lovely piles of grey green yarrow leaves among all the roses by the road. Each yarrow plant was as cheery as the next. No matter what a garden creature asked of them, their answer was always “yes”. Soon the little piles of fresh green leaves were surrounded with friends of all sorts: other flowers, bugs, birds, squirrels, all chattering away, making conversation, and from time to time asking yarrow for other favors which any of the yarrow plants would happily grant.

“Yes, yes, yes” you could hear them say.

Finally, as spring turned to summer, each collection of yarrow leaves began to feel a little hard bump in the center of their pile. As the weeks of June turned toward July, that bump grew taller and taller, until soon all the yarrows had one long stem reaching for the sky. The other flowers and garden creatures just stood back and watched this miraculous growth. They had never seen yarrow grow skyward before, and until now only knew her leaves. Whatever could this tall green thing be?

Just as the July 4th holiday passed, yarrow’s single stem suddenly broke into two or three little shoots and these shoots, too, reached up toward the sky. On the top of each little shoot were tiny light green balls. “Whatever could those be?” wondered the garden friends of yarrow. The yarrows just kept growing, their little balls at the tips of their stems getting bigger and lighiter.

One morning, just as the sun was reaching its highest place in the sky, right above the heads of the yarrow plants and all the garden creatures, the first of yarrows’ little stem balls burst open into the sun. Just like popcorn, one after another of the balls opened up and revealed a cluster of tiny yellow flowers, blinking up to the sun.

“Yes!” cried the sun, looking down on yarrow’s gorgeous outstretched arms of bright sparkle.

“Yes!” cried the birds, as they enjoyed yarrow’s new splendor.

“Yes!” cried the insects, as they took flight to see what all the commotion was about.

“Yes!” cried the yarrows, as each plant lifted her stem arms into the air, between the tips a riot of yellow blooms, a gift to the sky.

The spiders and worms on the ground agreed it was a perfectly shaped stem and flower for yarrow. For each tall stem was standing tall, arms outstretched, offering up a gift to the world.

And dear children, do you realize the shape of sweet yarrow’s gift? Join me: first we are small and flat like yarrow, then we kneel and grow straight and tall, then our stem grows outward at its tips, bearing its gifts to the sky. Yes, what letter are we?

“Y”. Y for “yes”, and Y for “yarrow”.