Thursday, August 1, 2013

Feeling like a Queen of the Prairie

I am celebrating the great, unexpected good fortune of being able to live in the country again, as I did through childhood, at the urging of good friends an hour from Duluth--and celebrating the concept of summer everlasting in our minds, summer with its weird discoveries or epiphanies from the natural world. Maybe half a mile down the road from my new shared home is this stand, just below the road bank, of a native American prairie plant belonging within the giant rose family, called queen-of-the-prairie. It will be in a watercolor which will have to proceed at its own pace.

While we in our fifties or coming into our sixties feel or see, at moments, our aging surface layers or inner parts, a wild and lesser-known plant like this one, coming into its prime just off our shoulder speaks to us of rejuvenation, whether it's individual or community. When I first saw this plant while passing in a fast walk meant to burn fat I knew it by name immediately, though I'd never seen it live before, only in pictures in several wildflower manuals. Some plants and animals are like that, so showy or just plain distinctive that someone else's photos instill a lasting memory of the look matched with the name.

Queen-of-the-prairie is like a pink floss or a foam as the eye sees it, on top of the pale orangey green stalk. Originating, apparently, in the northern and central prairies of the United States where there's wet soil, the plant has found its way eastward into New England by way of gardening and escapes from gardens. Down in the grasses below the inflorescence are the leaves, colonial, sharply veined and toothed, deeply lobed and golden-green. What a privilege, to share habitat with things like this that nobody contrived or apparently planted, it just came into being by natural process through thousands of years and holds out, where nobody may for the longest time have grazed livestock or mown hay, much less laid pavement.

Watch for the 2013 watercolor, which continues my line of native North American plant note cards. I'd halfway like to have it done right now, right here to advertise. But every time I go to work at one of these, now from a folding chair due to the risk of deer ticks, I have to consciously tell myself that the project can't be hurried or everything will suffer. Evolution takes eons to bring us the life form we know, and artwork meant for its glorification takes as long as the artist's whole life support system requires, as long as the inevitable mistakes take to be found and improved upon, as long as the utmost patience will bear.

I am so full of gratitude, when I stop to think, of all that's been possible and may yet be possible in my time.

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