Thursday, May 19, 2011

Splendor in the grass

One thing that puzzles me about this end-of-the-world business is why those folks are so anxious to beam up. Arid streets paved in gold? An eternity of banal praise songs? What the heck is it?

Maybe if I lived in Oakland, as the godfather of Saturday’s projected Rapture does, it would be easier to understand. Oakland is not San Francisco, after all.

But Iowa is Iowa and it's all just too beautiful to leave willingly right now.

I spent a little time yesterday afternoon in prairie remnants about eight miles down the Cinder Path, where the astonishing diversity of plants can give you some idea of what much of Iowa must have looked like 200 years ago before "Americanization" --- corn, beans, grazing cattle, sheep and cement.

Although the prairie phlox (above) do catch your attention and in places the landscape seems almost paved in gold of another sort (below), you really do have to get off the trail, climb the embankment (tread carefully), stand still and look around to penetrate the mystery.

I can't name the great majority of what's in bloom right now. Nor can I be certain exactly what is native and what has wandered in from elsewhere, but there's really no need.

Be sure to stand still and listen, too. No sound other than birdsong and a little wind in the leaves of nearby trees. The air is scented with the smell of chokecherry blossoms and (invasive) honeysuckle --- although bees are better at detecting the honeysuckle scent than humans are.

Some of the blossoms are quite large, and some are tiny --- sparkling in thin grass.

The compass plant (below) so far is recognizable only because of its distinctive leaves. It will bloom big and yellow before summer's done.

Most of these prairie plants, created with full sun in mind, prefer the open sky. Shyer whte ones, however, shine in the shade.

Even though honeysuckle, misguidedly introduced, spreads like wildfire when not controlled, the bees (honey and bumble) love it. Don't be afraid of them --- as hard as it is to believe, they have no interest in you.

Done looking, I climbed onto a bench in a battered little shelter and just sat there cross-legged for about half an hour --- elevated on a bench and cross-legged because of ticks, a fly in the ointment that loves to crawl right up your legs.

It occurred to me that if I keeled over right then and there and fell off my perch and into the grass, I'd already be in heaven --- rapture of another sort.

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