The Yarny Yarrow: Vintage Delight in the Garden of Simplicity

What was it about that lanky weed? I had seen it last weekend at the garden shop and I couldn’t get it out of my mind. I know it spreads, sowing its seed wild, and stretches its roots wide. But I couldn’t be put off.

Maybe it’s the way the tiny florets circled together like knotted embroidery thread on a vintage blouse. It reminded me of old times, simpler times when the family yard was more like a domesticated meadow.

When we walked the grounds of an outdoor history museum a few weeks ago, my mom pointed to the clover laid out all over the lawn like scraps of fabric sewn into a quilt. When she was growing up, all the yards in the neighborhood looked that way. Simplicity allows room for natural growth, welcomes a bit of wild. Now, many of us douse our grass with newfangled chemicals, always another to-do on the list if we want to keep the lawn presentable.

I see this specimen, the Gold Yarrow, on a vintage botanical print…all the stages of its cycle, the segments of its form, its tough stems, ferny leaves, clustered flowers, all drawn out and labeled. In another era, its silvery foliage was crushed into a salve for healing wounds, or a tea to ward off colds or melancholy. It’s no wonder, the way this peculiar plant makes my dimples show.

I’ve been thinking on the shape of a happy life this week, pondering Anne Morrow Lindbergh’s advice that we should think hard before we add something new to our schedule or home. She speaks of a shell, the channelled whelk, that she will carry back from the beach to remind her of “the ideal of the simplified life.” And she vows “To ask how little, not how much, can I get along with. To say–is it necessary?–when I am tempted to add one more accumulation to my life, when I am pulled toward one more centrifugal activity.”

Many of us need to clear out our schedules and homes and start from the basics, a practice something like dividing the overzealous plants that have taken over the garden. Anne Morrow Lindbergh’s question is certainly helpful. But I fear we may deprive ourselves of much beauty if we only ask, “Is it necessary?”

Another idea came to mind this week when I couldn’t get that yarny yarrow out of my mind. Was it necessary that I head all the way back to the garden shop, with the kids in tow, to find again that vintage delight of a plant? No. Yet the endeavor felt simple, somehow. Why? Because it brought me joy. It wasn’t drudgery or another to-do to make me sigh. I was fueled by delight. These two ideas are companion plants in the garden of simplicity: Is it necessary? Does it bring me joy?

Back home, I set the newbies in full sun. The flowery herbs stretched tall, leaned toward light, a thousand little yellow sponges soaking it all in. The simple life makes room for joy.

{How about you? What questions do you ask yourself when deciding what to allow into/around your home and schedule? Share your ideas in the comments section.}

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6 thoughts on “The Yarny Yarrow: Vintage Delight in the Garden of Simplicity

  1. I love this. Once again purging my schedule and stuff accumulated to find freedom. I don’t do it, because it initially hurts to let go, but it is worth it.

    • Thanks, Amber. I love that feeling of freedom when I’ve pared down and given away the excess. But I always find that between the sorting and the giving, there’s a period of time that I let the stuff just sit there like I’m afraid to really let it go. I think part of it is inherited– there’s a family history of mild hoarding tendencies on both sides! But when I remind myself that getting rid of unfulfilling things leaves more room for the joyful things, I get the guts to finally cut the ties and send my belongings out into the world.

    • Yes! That’s the term I needed: french knots. I admire the look even if I don’t know what to call them or how to make them. ;) Anyway, I’m finally planting the yarrow and its friends this evening. They’ve been sitting patient in their pots for two days. Thanks for chiming in, Donna. I hope to see you around the blog again soon!

  2. Well, Darcy. Of course you’re speaking of thoughts and ideals that are right up our alley (in my home anyway). Hubby and I are reading Jen Hatmaker’s 7 book together. Totally fits in perfectly with Gift from the Sea. I’ve shared a lot of Anne’s book with him as well. God is definitely helping us “refine” our homes and hearts. Very freeing.

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