My Namesake

This week on a summer solstice, forest walk in our local state park I was greeted with an enormous surprise. The flower I was named after was in bloom everywhere—from small patches to entire ridges.

Linnea borealis, the twin flower

A “field” of thousands of twin flowers in bloom










Never in 40 years of living in its range have I timed a walk to be in the woods at the peak moment of bloom for Linnaea borealis (the twinflower). I have seen one or two or a small colony of the tiny flowers blooming at one time, but nothing of this magnitude! I carefully sat down at the edge of one of these blooming fields and became completely still.

South Whidbey State Park on summer solstice

No human sound penetrated the forest’s deep silence on this cool summer day. I inhaled slowly. There is reputed to be an elegant fragrance that comes from these fairy flowers. I had never been able to perceive it, but here were thousands of flowers in one place. Slowly, steadily I found myself engulfed in a very slight citrus smell.

The ecstasy I felt must be akin to someone coming from a planet with no flowers landing in the northern hemisphere in June. I both wanted to shout out loud in amazement AND be silent in the temple of beauty.

This tiny woodland flower was my grandmother’s favorite in her Swedish homeland. She gave her fourth child, my mother, the middle name of Linnea. My mother passed that same middle name onto me. After kayaking around Lake Superior in the summer of 1992, I felt so profoundly changed that I needed an outward claiming of my inward change. So, I legally changed my name to Ann Linnea.

At this moment in the woods, I felt enormous connection to my mother, my grandmother, and my Swedish heritage. Since my mother is still alive, I eagerly called her when I returned from my walk. She has always lived a bit south of where this tiny plant grows. She knows what it looks like, but cannot ever remember smelling a Linnea flower. I sure hope my sweet, quiet grandmother had a moment like mine in the forest of her homeland when she was a child.

My grandmother’s favorite wildflower in Sweden. She immigrated here as a teenager.

Nature holds the thread of wonder if we look carefully. It is a powerful antidote for us humans—it has always been so.




11 replies
  1. Sarah Pierre
    Sarah Pierre says:

    My heart jumped with Joy to hear your amazing story. Thank you for sharing this truly remarkable and beautiful experience.

  2. Katharine Weinmann
    Katharine Weinmann says:

    I am touched to read this story of your name, of the blessing to have been amidst so much of your heritage in your special sacred place. I, too, legally changed my name to honour my grandmothers, a beloved who championed me as a child, and my heritage. How to sweet to know we share this self claimed gift to the Feminine.

  3. Sheila Kiscaden
    Sheila Kiscaden says:

    What a lovely account of a magical time in the forest you so dearly love and the connection it brings to your family.

  4. Sherry Auer
    Sherry Auer says:

    Thank you so much for the photos and sharing about this lovely flower and your heritage. I was briefly transported to wonderland!

  5. Margaret Brown
    Margaret Brown says:

    from Willa Cather: “Where there is great love, there are always miracles. “Miracles…seem to me to rest not so much upon faces or voices or healing power coming suddenly near to us from afar off, but upon our perceptions being made finer, so that for a moment our eyes can see and our ears can hear what is there about us always.”


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