On December 31st, 2020 I mailed a letter to Canada Post’s Stamp Advisory Committee to suggest a set of 2020 commemorative stamps with a seasonal plant theme. They are: Spring – Forget Me Not; Summer – White Water Lily; Fall – Sunflower; Winter – Bittersweet. These four plants signify the positive and negative effects of the COVID-19 pandemic for many Canadians in 2020. Which flower do you think would commemorate the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 for Canadians?
On March 17th, 2020, Ontario went into lockdown in an attempt to combat the first wave of COVID-19. We felt a tremendous amount of stress and upheaval in our lives. On March 22nd, my husband had a heart attack. Emergency responders rushed him to the hospital where he received a stent and returned home two days later. As he recovered in early spring, forget-me-nots bloomed in our backyard. Soon after, a local Long Term Care facility faced an outbreak of COVID-19 and many elderly lives were lost. The gravity of the situation set in that spring.The forget-me-not will always remind me of how COVID-19 invaded our lives in a devastating way, yet also made us value our health, loved ones, front-line healthcare and personal support workers, and the importance of medical and long-term care in Canada.
In the summer, we turned to the great outdoors to find emotional relief from lockdown and our anxiety over COVID-19. The white water lily represents to me a tangible beauty that one finds in the backcountry, paddling through ponds and quiet rivers. It blossoms out of the mud, coming from a place of deep darkness to stretch up to the light. In the summer, this universally revered plant signified our resilience to persevere against COVID-19.
As summer turned into fall, our COVID-19 numbers looked like they would plateau. We hoped life would return to “normal”. People flocked to sunflower fields for selfies to share on social media! The sunflower is an exaggerated semblance of joy, a personification of human optimism captured in floral form. Alas, like the glory days of summer, this sentiment that we had flattened the curve was but a fleeting moment in time. We tried to return to normal, but the second wave was undeniably rising as many returned to work and school in the fall.
Finally, in the early days of winter, a vaccine arrived! We became collectively hopeful. For that reason, the fruit of the bittersweet plant represents sweet hope to me; but bittersweet is a double-sided plant: every part is poisonous for humans to ingest, yet it has powerful medicinal properties and is strikingly beautiful against snow and a blue winter sky. Still, the loss of life and illness from early winter’s soaring COVID-19 numbers will forever be bitter in our minds.
All four plants represent to me both the bad and good that brought us apart physically and socially, but emotionally together. Do you feel the same? As a teacher, I wonder what school children would think. Like the poppy commemorating the contributions of veterans in war, maybe one of these plants will eventually represent the sacrifice and strength of Canadians during the pandemic in 2020. My only wish is that if these plants are used to commemorate this hard year that a portion of any funds collected go to serve long-term and medical care for all Canadians.
Jennifer is a teacher who specializes in outdoor and environmental education.