Poppy Death. In Memoriam

Published in Highlights
I was delighted to see my first poppy of the season two days ago, and duly recorded my pleasure yesterday morning.
Passing by the same spot in the evening, just as I was about to point out the stunning red of the flower against an increasingly cloudy sky to my passenger, I saw with horror that it was gone. Only some tragic-looking grey strands and the unattractive concrete, now covered with the poppy's sad relics, remained to be seen.

Local Council workers had been on the scene during the day, resolutely clearing the roadsides in advance of the major Maundy Thursday Processions in about three weeks' time. The poppy had been growing in a crack by the base of a lamp post. It was not blocking a pavement, or indeed doing anyone any harm whatsoever. Just sharing its brilliant beauty with a world which proved to be unappreciative of the gift. Why kill it? Hardly a fitting sacrifice in honour of the Processions. Evidently there are different visions of what makes Hvar beautiful. I was not alone in regretting the poppy's passing: the lady whose yard fronts on to the spot came out to tell me how much her small children had enjoyed playing round the poppy. Not much joyful play left round the withered stalks.

Other victims of the viciously wielded strimmers were the road islands which just a short time ago were brimming with wild flowers, now reduced to stony bare earth interspersed with some rather sad-looking rosemary plants, cut back like victims of some brutal military-style bullying.

Left to flourish, rosemary plants are majestic at this time of year, attracting early bees. The plants in front of Jelsa's Bagy petrol station, just outside the town, which is also a very busy tyre-fitting operation, are a prime example:

Right now, the roadside verges which are not obliterated by pesticides or unnecessary strimming are alive with an ever-increasing variety of colours.

The red poppy is the first really bright red colour to appear in springtime, standing out among the profuse whites and yellows. Poppies have been associated with largescale human sacrifice since their adoption as an emblem of the First World War in Europe. Now in the 21st century there is no need to kill them off wantonly. Natural beauty is a gift Hvar should be nurturing, not destroying in this mindless way. Maybe the sacrifice of this one plant might lead to a re-think on the part of the local authorities and their workers. What do visitors to Hvar come to see? Nature sharing its abundant gifts of colour and life? - or the dead straggling shoots left after a mindless massacre? I think it's this:

© Vivian Grisogono 2014

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