I don't know where the phrase "a picture is worth a thousand words" originated, but sometimes even a picture is inadequate to plumb the depths of thought and emotion induced by the simplest of stimuli. Take, for example, the still life in brown pictured at the right. An unknowing, unaware observer might recognize the presence of a little loose soil, a number of brown vegetable-origin structures, and the background of brown prairie grass, trimmed short in the late days of Fall. A very astute observer might recognize the brown tubular structures as roots, and perhaps the most knowledgeable and experienced gardeners, looking closely, might discern some bud eyes peeking from the crowns of those roots.
I can confirm, for the curious, that these are peony roots, ready to be transplanted. These roots are divisions that I purloined at Thanksgiving from my boyhood home, healthy survivors who were growing in good Indiana soil long before I drew first breath. There are 5 different peony starts here from a row of peonies that always separated orchard from vegetable garden, large clumps that sagged with each rainfall and became obstacles to be mowed around during the verdant summer and then to be mowed off short at the start of Fall. You can see, in the closeup at the left, plump buds biding frigid Winter, waiting to clone and grow again in my Kansas garden.
They are, at once, both unique peonies and common peonies, unremarkable to the average gardener, but precious everafter to me. They are common because I suspect that the varieties are just the same tired pink and white and red peonies that our grandparents grew and that probably sell for $3.95 per 3 clumps now each Spring at Walmart. Odds are that one is 'Festiva Maxima', and another 'Sarah Bernhardt', and it is likely that I already grow all or most of these, purchased at local nurseries. They are exceptional, however, these 5 peonies, because they are now weighted down with childhood memories and ghostly fields stretching as far as a boy could roam. They bear this heavy load because this year, after 50 years of living in one place, my parents are selling the home farm. I have only the opportunity to start them here, these keepers of memory, so they can whisper to me of family picnics in the Spring, and sweet corn grown tall in Summer, and of the peaches and apples that fell from the nearby orchard trees, destined only to rot and fertilize these roots.
And you thought it was just a picture of a few brown roots and dirt.