Woke up this morning and stared into a giant poppy. Huge petals, like elephant ears, have opened everywhere in my magical island garden to share but never to reveal the mystery of mysteries. What is the source of all this beauty? Why do I see it as beauty? I look into the middle of the cup formed by the bright orange petals with large blood-red spots in the bottom, which are beginning to metamorphose into a woman's crepe skirt. In the middle is a green-purple circle of stamens that looks like an expensive feather boa. In the center is a purple wheel, machine-like in appearance, unexpected in the organic world. A botanist could perhaps explain it all so much better, but then could he really explain everything I see? Science is just one way of seeing a poppy.
I look into the cup of the flower again and see a wheel ready to conquer the landscape. Uncle Mike sits at his dining room table writing what he means to say on his whiteboard which he has begun to use to express himself since he had a stroke. My aunt and I make out the words "war memoir". He cannot write evenly, puts the pen down and shakes his head in frustration. Below us, in the basement, are the many paintings he has produced throughout the years. They were only a hobby and didn't much make it out of the basement. Beautiful, hidden there under the ground for no one to question and criticize, they could be there just like poppies in the garden. Uncle Mike reminds me of the poppies still in closed green husks. You have no idea of the surprise unfolding inside. Maybe we're all like that; we just pretend to know one another.
My Uncle scribbles the story of when a U-boat chased the ship that was taking him and his compatriots to fight in Europe in 1944. The German submarine didn't manage to torpedo them, and they made it to Omaha Beach. Uncle Mike has kept quiet about being a soldier until now. He hurt his foot fighting, and has always kept that in his shoe, so to speak. Now the poppy is opening and Uncle Mike is sharing despite or because of his stroke. Perhaps one day he'll tell us about the thousands of poppies in the fields. How did they get there? What did he see?
The smell of a poppy is like the smell of a sweet blade of grass. Who would have known it? Mystery of mysteries.