Where Ideas Grow

A blog for students of creative writing at York St John University

Lament For A Weed

The last one to arrive at the little house on the lake was an older woman named Sylvia. I saw her first by the side of the winding road, looking up towards the gloriously blue sky, soaking in the sun. She had been a lifelong outcast from her village. They called her a beast; an unsettling force tucked behind thick hedgerows, her pungent perfume encouraging her isolation. Villagers would warn passersby, saying Don’t go that way, that’s where the beast dwells. She was treated as a myth – a ghost story to get children to behave. As the children grew, they would dare each other to find her cabin concealed in the eerie woods. The smell hung like a cloud around her home, and when that first unpleasant whiff hit them, they would run away screaming The beast! The beast! But she never bothered them.

So I took her down to the little house on the lake, hoping the open water would sooth her nervous disposition. She kept her magenta hood up the whole ride down, hiding away the  coarse hair that coated her skin. When we arrived, she told me to keep her separated from the others, in case her disease should spread. Disease? I queried. She merely gestured at her skin. You are not diseased, my friend, you are just like us. All who come here have been trampled, beaten or bullied, our roots pulled from the ground like we are worthless. As I helped her down from the cart, I felt a deep longing for her to feel safe after her years of torment. 

Iona greeted us at the door, a warm smile on her sweet face. Welcome, She said, We have the perfect room for you. Iona was always so kind. Together, we led her to the small room behind the kitchen; the warmest in the house, with a view of the lake and our garden. The bed was already made, and Sylvia turned to us in confusion. You knew I would come?, she asked. No, but we always make room for lost flowers, I replied. 

For a little while she kept to herself – habit, I supposed. Roberta and Jenny had concerns, but I had faith she would come out of her shell when she was ready. When the sun had temporarily left us and a creeping fog had settled on the hilltops, she stepped out into our garden with an uneasy look on her face. Come, I called out. Do not be frightened. This is your home, too. She liked to walk alongside the hedges, brushing her fingers through the shrubbery, and I wondered if she was thinking of her old life every time she strolled through that path. A few weeks later, she took her hood down. Her smile stretched from ear to ear, and she would take a walk down to the lake daily, unafraid to be seen any longer. It warmed my soul to see the spring in her step.

When she died, we carried her down the trail worn into the earth and buried her near the lake; it felt only right that it should be her resting place. Shortly after, alongside the hedge there bloomed hooded, magenta flowers with a stem covered in coarse hairs. Iona gasped when she saw them. She’s come back to us! She joyfully cried at the sprouting weeds. The leaves that unfurled from the stem were heart-shaped with jagged, toothed edges, but they never did prick us when we brushed past them on our way to the lake. I like to think that was her way of saying Thank you for plucking me from the side of the road that sunny day, but perhaps that is too presumptuous. In the end, she made our lives better too. I only wish I had told her.

Ellen Dawson

Ellen Dawson is an MA Publishing student at York St John University. Her writing ranges from weird fiction to YA fantasy pirate romance, with very little in between. This piece was inspired by a recent writing retreat in Grasmere, where she took part in an exercise on the personification of weeds and reflections on their treatment.

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