Golden Rod

Come September, come the golden rod, a Canadian invader, as beautiful in its way as the buddleia, taking up residence wherever a seed can find moisture and root room.

Golden Rod at least stays at ground level, but its creeping roots know how to expand its territory. I allow myself and Mrs Turnstone, an annual bouquet from the abandoned railway allotments, where it shines against the brambles and black-barked willow.

I gather it in part as a salutary reminder, since for all its beauty, I found this a depressing flower for many years, though not because it heralds Autumn and shorter, darker days. Rather I see it in my inward eye, dancing in the breeze across the prairies as the ‘Canadian’ train took me from my summer at the L’Arche community in Edmonton, Alberta, back to Toronto and so on to my half-completed college course in Hull, Yorkshire, a grey city under a grey sky, its feet in grey mud.

Unfair to Hull, I know, with all the trees along Princes Avenue and Pearson Park, but there would be no gophers to share my lunchtime sandwiches on Cottingham Road, while I had found the humans in Edmonton every bit as charming as the wildlife. Leaving them I was torn, knowing I had to finish my course, and unconsoled by horror stories of winter mornings with temperatures of 40O below.

Summer had been warm and happy despite the attentions of the carnivorous Albertan insect life, feasting on fresh blood. Hull would be grey and wet and smelling of smoked haddock. (One of my favourite fish, but on a plate, and not in the air all day.)

The golden rod waved me goodbye, from all the wild places, from across the prairies, from the shores of Lake Superior and even from the last miles into Toronto and the airport. Golden days; and now my heart can enjoy the memory and dance with the golden rod.

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