Blessed are they who see the beauty of everyday things.
O, the joy and delight of stepping into the Backyard Farm, dotted with yellow, orange and harlequin pom-pom heads of the African marigolds. Happily rubbing shoulders with Swiss chard, squash and tomatoes, they are not only a delight to the eye but also an adventures and nutritious addition to our kitchen table. I only recently started experimenting with the culinary uses of the flowers.
Deceptively dainty and petite, they effectively control pests in the yard by discouraging many insects from feasting on nearby crops. All the while, they are just as hard at work underground, controlling nematodes.
Despite the poor soil condition, these humble beauties are flourishing and boldly, flamboyantly interspersing beds of vegetables with patches of colour.
The earliest use of marigolds was by the Aztec people who attributed magical, religious and medicinal properties to the plant. These colourful flowers figure prominently in many religious ceremonies in the Spanish as well as Indian culture.
In Mexico, the wild Marigolds, Tagetes Erecta, grow three to four feet high and often just as wide. They carry flowers that are two to four inches across and are exceptionally fragrant. The plant has been used for centuries as a beverage, dye and flavouring as well as medicinally. To the Aztecs this was a sacred herb, which they used to decorate their shrines and temples. With the arrival of the Spanish in the early 16th century, the marigold took on a completely new meaning. It became a living symbol of the Spanish massacre of the Aztec people. The red blood of the Aztecs spilled over the yellow gold the Spanish stole. These marigolds are often called Flor de Muerto (flower of death) and represent pain and grief in this context.
The marigold endured transcontinental transport to exhibit resilience and adaptability when, after the Boer War, they were brought to South Africa from Australia. More than a hundred years later, they are still going strong. Some regard them as weeds because of their resilience and hardiness. To me they are a symbol of strength and fortitude. Not temperamental about their environment or climate conditions, they flourish wherever they can put down roots. With good will, they collaborate with their neighbours, being the ultimate companion and bringing benefit to their surroundings.
Five years ago, I was uprooted from the place that I called home and separated from the people I regarded family. With much heartache, I searched for hope and a new beginning. With great effort and painful struggle, I started to build a new life. The Backyard Farm is part of that new life; a beautiful sanctuary in the midst of busy suburbia where I find peace and harmony. The golden balls gently swaying in the breeze a constant reminder to stay humble, to be content in my circumstances and to embrace all that life offers me.
© Copyright Micelle Coetsee 2015