An old woman walked down a dirt road to check her box at the local post office. She had a secret hobby, easy to keep hidden on this quiet country road. Wildflower seeds filled her pockets. Every few minutes she tossed a handful of seeds along the roadside. If you read my last post (you really should), you may have guessed the identity of these seeds. Yes, they were lupine seeds and yes, there really was a lupine lady that inspired Barbara Cooney to write her award-winning children's book, Miss Rumphius.
Her name was Hilda Edwards, an English immigrant who arrived in Maine at the age of fifteen. After settling in her adopted home, Hilda went on to graduate from Smith College in 1915 and married Talbot Faulkner Hamlin, a college professor and librarian. Like Miss Rumphius, Hilda traveled the world and lived in a house by the sea. Her uncle, a retired English professor, offered her family the chance to summer in a shingled cottage perched high above Christmas Cove on the coast of Maine. That is where lupine got their start in coastal Maine. Every August, Hilda cut stalks from fading lupine and shook seeds along roadside and fields. All this she did in secret, until one day a car pulled up next to her as she walked to the post office.
"Who planted these wildflowers?" the tourist asked.
Hamlin replied, "At the end of the road lives a queer old bird who has so many hundreds of lupine on her land that she has acquired the habit of cultivating the seeds when they open."
The tourist said, "I would like to shake her hand."
Hilda extended her hand, "I am Hilda Lupina."
Readers of Yankee magazine got a glimpse of Hilda. Back in 1971, W. Storrs Lee visited Hilda, and the interview was featured in the popular regional publication. Her story brought unwelcome fame to the quaint village. The little post office in Christmas Cove was inundated with letters from readers requesting seeds. In a later issue, editors reminded readers that Hilda was not in competition with Burpees seed catalog nor was she up to visitors suddenly appearing at her doorstep. Like Miss Rumphius, she enjoyed the solitude of her cottage by the sea.
Hilda Edwards Hamlin died before the publication of Miss Rumphius. Although I am sure she would have enjoyed this beautifully illustrated children's book, I feel certain that she would not have appreciated the fame it would have brought her.