Monday, May 29, 2006

Memorial Day in Glass.....May 29, 2006

I've created non-wearable poppies and then a poppy necklace - both made in the style I remember as a kid. I hadn't realized the symbolism of the poppies.

For the past several weeks, I've been thinking about Memorial Day - how my mother called it "Decoration Day" and that we would always always always visit the cemetary and plant flowers.

Did you know that "Decoration Day" began during the Civil War? People were doing it informally because they felt the need to honor their loved ones who had died in war. Decoration Day was formally recognized in 1868.

I'm in awe when I think of how long the tradition that I learned from my mother has been observed. I'm saddened when I realize my teenage son doesn't know why we observe Memorial Day.

I also remember in the late 1960's - early '70's when as a kid I would dig out my change and buy a poppy from the VFW veterans (they must have been WW1 veterans because they were old to me :-) who were on every corner selling poppies.

My Mom would recite the poem that inspired the poppies, "In Flanders Field" (which I've posted below). Flanders Field is an actual place in Belgium. There is an U.S. soldiers cemetary there for US soldiers killed in WW1. It seems that after the destruction, the only plant that would grow were wild poppies. I've included the only known picture of poppies growing on the former battle site and a painting by the Canadian painter, Mary Riter Hamilton entitled "Trenches on the Somme."

I've been thinking about those poppies and how they have come to symbolize Memorial Day for me. I haven't always been so aware of what the poppies symbolize. Read the poem and you'll see.

In Flander's Field
by John McCrae

In Flanders Fields the poppies blow,
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky,
The larks, still bravely singing, fly,
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the dead.
Short days ago,
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved and now we lie,
In Flanders Fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe
To you, from failing hands, we throw,
The torch, be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us, who die,
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow,
In Flanders Fields.

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