It was one of those crazy busy Saturdays at the Dane County Farmer’s market. Not only were there the regulars that stop by the stand for their custom bouquet, there was a whole new crowd of customers, not just the looky-loos, but people buying the big bouquets. Our flowers looked great, and the customer response reflected it.
I was working with a customer creating a large centerpiece, when I saw my friend, Harold, walking towards the stand. Harold was a fellow market vendor, who sells a wide variety of organic vegetables, and specializes in their famous Hickory Hills syrup.
I had imet Harold one Saturday as I took a quick stroll around the square, checking out the other stands, and getting my fresh produce for the week. What drew my attention to Harold was his hands. You could tell he was a farmer by the shape and size of his hands, they were one of his main tools. The other feature that caught my attention were his twinkling eyes. Harold’s eyes were icy blue. One of his eyes had been hurt in a farm accident, so when he looked at you, it was the one good eye that he trained on you with intense attention. The first time we talked, we found ourselves talking about birds, and formed a fast bond in our love of the feathered ones.
Harold grew up on the family farm in the Baraboo Hills of Sauk County. Farming was a way of life for several generations. Harold made a pact early in his life on a Sunday jaunt through the Baraboo Hills with his dog. He had come across a beautiful area lush with blooming spring flowers and alive with birds, and decided that he would do what it takes to preserve this piece of paradise. Through his life, he made good on this promise by partnering with Wisconsin Society of Ornithology and the Nature Conservancy. Harold was an ambassador with his fellow farmers, urging them to sell choice sections of land to preserve forever. He was the ultimate matchmaker, bringing together just the right people to get the job done.
After our first meeting at the market, Harold and his wife Carla, became dear friends. They helped connect me to a great circle of Earth lovers, and showed me the beauty of Sauk County.
On this particular Saturday, Harold was coming to our flower stand to make good on a promise of sharing a special flower that he had dug up from his farm. His mother loved flowers, and the farm was colored by her love of them. Harold had told me about a flower that grew generously, very beautiful hot pink catkins, growing up to feet tall. You need this flower. Well, ok!
I finished up with my customer, and Harold, almost sneakily, came around the bank of the tent to give me the flower that he had dug up and put in a yogurt container. (as an aside, Harold and Carla were forever recyclers, having been key players in getting this going in Sauk County). Harold handed me the plant, and in a hushed tone and a twinkle in his one eye, he said “maybe you shouldn’t tell anybody you got this from me…the name of the flower is Kiss me over the Garden Gate”. We both got a good laugh over this.
Harold passed away last summer, Carla a couple years before that. I will always fondly remember them, and connect to the goodness they broght into this world. Every time my Kiss me over the Garden Gate first blooms, I’m drawn back to that day at the market, with Harold sneaking around the bank of the tent with his secret plant.