Miss Rumphius

A good picture book is timeless….it appeals as much to the adult reader as it does to the child.

Miss Rumphius, by Barbara Cooney, is one such picture book. I read this book many many times to my son when he was young. It touched my heart and sang to my soul. I long to be Miss Rumphius when I am old and gray.

miss 1

Little Alice Rumphius lives by the sea and helps her grandfather paint pictures and listens to his stories of faraway places. She longs to grow up and travel the world, then settle down by the sea. Her grandfather tells her she must do one more thing: find something to make the world more beautiful.

Little Alice Rumphius does grow up and works – where else but with books? “…dusting books and keeping them from getting mixed up, and helping people find the ones they wanted.”

And she travels the world and settles down by the sea. But what will she do to make the world more beautiful? After a hard winter, she realizes what she must do. She scatters lupine seeds “along the highways and down the country lane …around the schoolhouse and back of the church.” People now call her That Crazy Old Lady. But come spring, the flowers emerge and she is called The Lupine Lady ever after.

Now, years later, children come to her garden gate and she invites them in and tells them tales of faraway places and urges them to find something to make the world a more beautiful place.

miss 4

I think most gardeners have a touch of Miss Rumphius in them – that intrinsic desire to make the world more beautiful.

My husband and I had recently bought our first home when I attended a garden club’s plant sale in a neighboring town. I still vividly recall the ladies handing me a glass of lemonade and inviting me to sit and chat about gardening. It is hard to believe that 22 years have now passed. I joined that garden club a few years after that plant sale and am still a member today. Several garden club members that I remember fondly from those early days have now passed on. But their legacies live on.  And their gardens live, too, as they scattered seeds and dug and shared plants with garden club members over the years. And they made the world a more beautiful place.

miss 5

(I recently bought these beautiful flower shears at the estate sale of a garden club member that passed away last year.)

miss 6


2 thoughts on “Miss Rumphius”

  1. I LOVE this post. I often call the previous, long-time resident/gardener of our home Mr. Rumphius. What a beautiful legacy he left for all to enjoy. I often wish I could tell him how happy it makes me, but I think he probably knew he was leaving something beautiful for someone.


  2. Thank you, Andrea.
    I love the gardens you inherited with your home! It has been so special to share your excitement through the seasons as new surprises emerge.


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