O Poppy My Poppy!

John McCrae with his dog Bonneau.

“In Flanders Fields” – John McCrae with his dog Bonneau.

“O the bleeding drops of red”*

Here we are – near to 100 years ago – 3 May 1915 – since Canadian soldier, officer, doctor John McCrae penned, “In Flanders Fields”. McCrae’s reflections upon the loss of fellow soldier and friend, Alexis Helmer, are a personal witness to war that placed within the grasp of millions a natural beauty that gently rises from this earth that holds the remains of men, women, and children lost to the clutches of the Great War. McCrae’s words connect us, to this day, with the landscape of the Great War and though for many of us far from home the poem speaks to our ancestors who once “lived, felt dawn saw sunset glow”.

Poppies continue to stand across this reborn landscape of Flanders…and France…and elsewhere. A flower forever linked to remembrance and the wreckage of mankind’s wrath and folly. Of those many poppies I have visited, while on the trail of soldiers who walked, stumbled, crawled, marched and ran across this very ground, I too reflect upon that crimson red delicacy floating above the hardened ground. From this once twisted earth I observe its gentle weave, the Poppy’s fragility beguiles the ragged edges of rusted metal – the fragments and splinters – the remainders of the Great War that to this day continue to lurk among the flowers.

As the poppies drift to and fro with the wind; anchored to the ground, these dainty tissues of red fragility, call out to the lives once here…remember me, remember this place, go forward, listen, learn…reflect. Like a life in motion, the poppies are entrancing, a spirit moved upon the wind and currents of this landscape…their ground.

Great War Veterans' Association Year Book. (1923).

Great War Veterans’ Association Year Book. (1923).

O Poppy my poppy I see in your message these lives of old and those left to remember. Of those people who called these voices Father, Dad, Daddy, Pere, Vater, Pater…Poppy. “O the bleeding drops of red” held by the border edges of your petals, nourished by this ground of earth, men, women and children find the day, seize upon your call to memory and reflection, release your kind to this ground that others too will stop and reflect in your bloom. This is your ground, your sacred home, your endless vigil.

*“O the bleeding drops of red” from the poem “O Captain My Captain” by Walt Whitman.

About The Author

Paul has worked with the Paradigm Motion Picture Company since 2009 as producer, historian and research specialist. Paul first met Casey and Ian WIlliams of Paradigm in April 2007 at Ieper (Ypres), Belgium when ceremonies were being held for the re-dedication of the Vimy Memorial, France. Paul's sensitivity to film was developed at an early age seeing his first films at RCAF Zweibrucken, Germany and in Sardinia. Paul returned to Canada in 1967 and was further amazed by David Lean's "Lawrence of Arabia" and "Bridge on the River Kwai". Film captivated Paul and with time he became increasingly interested in storytelling, content development, character, direction, cinematography and soundtracks. At the University of Victoria, Paul studied and compared Japanese and Australian film and became interested in Australian film maker Peter Weir and his film "Gallipoli" (1981). Paul was entranced when he learned Weir had visited the beaches, ridges and ravines of the peninsula. The film "Gallipoli" alone led Paul on many journeys to sites of conflict in England, France, Belgium, Holland, Germany, Malta, Hawaii and Gallipoli. It was, however, when Paul watched documentary filmmaker Ken Burns, "The Civil War", that Paul understood how his own experience and insight could be effective and perhaps influential in film-making. Combining his knowledge of Museums and Archives, exhibitions and idea strategies with his film interests would be a natural progression. Paul thinks like a film-maker. His passion for history and storytelling brings to Paradigm an eye (and ear) to the keen and sensitive interests of; content development, the understanding of successful and relational use of collections, imagery and voice. Like Paul's favorite actor, Peter O'Toole, he believes in the adage “To deepen not broaden.” While on this path Paul always remembers his grandmother whose father did not return from the Great War and how his loss shaped her life and how her experience continues to guide him.


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