The Flowers of the Fields – Cath Barton [Fiction]

The Flowers of the Fields

There’s a girl I met. She lives in Italy now. She sent me pictures of fields full of alpine flowers. I tore them into little pieces and scattered them over my garden, but the only things that grew were dandelions, gaudy and rank. 

I put my disappointment onto a memory stick and sent it to the girl.  She replied by e-mail and asked why I had not included any pictures of my garden. 

The next time I wrote on paper, the best I had, with a fountain pen. I took a long time considering the different colours of ink. The assistant in the shop was patient with me as I vacillated between the blue of the Pacific ocean and the yellow of the golden hour. Unable to choose I took both and created the green of the alpine meadows. I wrote in a script I had been taught at school, cursive and satisfying to the eye. 

We have come to expect everything to happen so quickly, but a letter goes through many hands and it was a long time before the girl’s reply reached me. I was excited by the sound of words falling onto my doormat. The envelope was covered in stamps: pictures of flowers, gentians, edelweiss and something unnamed but sweet-scented. 

I thought I was ready for disappointment; I had rehearsed it nightly. Moving from the no to the yes and back again. And now I turned my hopes over in my hands. Over and over until the decisive moment arrived and I slit open the envelope. 

The girl had written on paper the colour of a late summer sky, brooding with the crackle of thunder and the spark of lightning. The ink had run and her words were indistinct. The paper tore into long strips as I handled it. Before I had time to decipher the words the wind swirled them from my hands and carried them into the pine trees at the bottom of my garden, too high for me to reach. 

The crows have taken the paper for their nests and the seeds of the dandelions have scattered. Now the earth is bare, but I still have the girl’s envelope and its perfume rekindles my hopes. The relentless year is turning and soon there will be a push from below. New growth will twist and spiral towards the light and the question of what is to be will be reopened. 


By Cath Barton

  • You can find Cath over on her website: or on Twitter: @CathBarton1


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