Windsor, Canada – From Berlin With Love

On Canada Day July 1, 2014  in Windsor, Canada:

When I was a child my parents, like so many others in East-Berlin, rented a bit of land just beyond the city-limits to supplement vegetables and fruits to our diet and for recreational purposes. Truth be told, I hated to go there almost every weekend from early spring until late in autumn. The drive there, it often rained and was cool – Middle European Summer seldom provides long, really warm, and steady stretches, it’s more like a daily lottery – mosquitos, only cold water and only outside the shed, an outhouse, close quarters, what meant a lot of social interactions – my list of complains was long. But I loved our plants. And one of my favorite flowers was a poppy shrub with blossoms as big as my hand in a bloody red and deep purple. Like its wild relative, forget-me-nots and sunflowers they were a sign of summer.

A couple of years and a fall of the Wall later I went to London for the first time. It was a birthday present for my dad (Nov 2) and me (Oct 31). Hence we hit town on a weekend early in November. While it rained cats and dogs and a whole zoo too we walked the streets and saw poppies everywhere. First I thought they were red carnations – a sign used in East Germany to represent socialism – and I didn’t know why. It piqued my interest. That’s when I learnt about Poppy Day, commemorated on November 11, the day the Armistice of WWI was signed and the hostilities officially ended.

But why the poppy, this beautiful herald of summer? That’s because of the Canadian doctor John McCrae, who came over to Europe with the brave Canadian boys and girls, who fought and died at the Somme, at Ypres, Arras, Neuve Chapelle, Mouquet Farm, Vimy, Bulecourt, … Nothing held them back, especially not rainy summers, mosquitos, cold water or outhouses. They knew they were needed and were able to help and so they crossed an ocean. Seeing the lines of the graves grow longer and longer by the day – especially in the first years of the war the number of casualties grew sky high by the day – he wrote a poem that became famous:

In Flanders Fields

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.

We experiencing some technical difficulties that’s why the photos from the From Berlin With Love art attack aren’t yet added, but I still want to thank Kelly for accepting my dare and for scattering the bags in honor of all the Canadian soldiers & veterans.

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