Finding out what the yellow flowers are called


I walk to work most days. Some days I walk all the way, which takes about thirty minutes. Most days I ride the Providence trolley with Partner; I get off on Wickenden Street, which is about a fifteen-minute walk from my office.



I walk past a florist, and a used-record store, and a couple of restaurants and bars, and a hardware store, and two coffeeshops, and a pizzeria, and an art-supply store.



Then I walk through a field of flowers.



I-195 used to run through the center of Providence. They rerouted it a few years ago. All of the former interstate-highway space is now a green boggy wilderness, full of weeds and flowers. (Rhode Island is largely swampland, so there’s a lot of squashy reedy ground reasserting itself too; geese are returning in large numbers, and those geese are mean.)



In the green space, there are yellow flowers, and white flowers, and yellow, and purple. I recognize some of them: carpet bugle, and butter-and-eggs, and milkweed, and even Jimson weed. There’s chicory, and vetch, and mullein. 



But there are a few I don’t know.



Some are yellow, on long spindly stalks. Some are small purple flowers on short stalks. Some are white, and small, and subtle.





There’s an Ursula LeGuin short story called “The Day Before The Revolution.” It’s about an old woman, Laia, who has inspired a revolution, but is now too old to care about it: all she can think about is her own past, and her dead husband, and the moments of joy in her life.



At the end of the story, she goes upstairs to her room to rest, and probably to die. On the way,  she looks out the window at a field of yellow flowers, the same flowers in which she lay down with her husband for the first time. And the last line is: “Eighty-five years, and she never had time to find out what the yellow flowers were called.”



I understand this.



I want to find out what the yellow flowers in the green field are called, before it’s too late.


About Loren Williams
Gay, partnered, living in Providence, working at a local university. Loves: books, movies, TV. Comments and recriminations can be sent to

4 Responses to Finding out what the yellow flowers are called

  1. starproms says:

    I think you will find they are oil seed rape flowers. We have a lot of fields full of them in England and they become more popular every year. They are used for making cooking oil, amongst other things. In England it is called rape seed oil. In America it is called Canola oil. Hope that helps 🙂

    • I’m sure you’re right about these. Nice to know the name of one more flower. I keep a copy of a book called WEEDS by the bedside; it’s very restful, before falling asleep, to look at the pictures of the flowers I see by the roadside most every morning, and try to match them up.

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