...beauty consists of its own passing, just as we reach for it. It’s the ephemeral configuration of things in the moment, when you can see both their beauty and their death.
— Muriel Barbery, The Elegance of the Hedgehog

We lost our Oriental poppies. Our big, beautiful, bright red Oriental poppies. The Oriental poppies we have grown since our Benjamin was a toddler. The seed pods of which he used as "salt-and-pepper shakers" when baking mud pies. Those oriental poppies.

Earlier in the spring we thought one was returning. A mound of fuzzy basal leaves appeared between the phlox and the ruby spice summersweet. The weather was uncharacteristically cool and unsettled...and the poppy did not survive. 

When I picked out a new Oriental poppy at a local greenhouse the owner told me it would be a pink variety. She muttered something about "turn over the tags," and "some will be a mystery." I was holding a plant that looked like a young Oriental poppy. The tag (illustrated with a variety of Oriental poppies) reads, Oriental Poppy (Papaver orientale). On the back, written in permanent marker is the word "Pink."

When a dainty, curved-stemmed, apricot-colored flower like the one shared above appeared in my cottage garden one morning I was too enamored to notice it is not an Oriental poppy. Atop graceful nodding stems, ruffled petals stole the show! Within a half an hour each of the petals fell to the ground below, leaving only what is to become a miniature version of my young Benjamin's "salt-and-pepper shakers."

Dainty, nodding stems with apricot-colored blooms which last only an hour or so...this fleeting beauty is not my Oriental poppy, but if she self-seeds I will welcome her again-and-again! 

Jessica Allen explores the fields and forests of Pennsylvania with her artist-husband, Michael Allen, and their son, Benjamin. She shares her observations through words and pictures of everyday magic and beauty she sees in her world.