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Monday, August 27, 2012

Day 27 Outdoors: A Wealth of Late Summer Weeds

Sunday evening, 6:40-8:00 p.m.

The air is densely humid, weighing heavily on the warm, fading, late summer world of green, and filling the heaviness is the constant, high-pitched humming of insects, most of it at the far upper range of human hearing, like a ringing in the ears. A steady buzz at the highest pitch is underlaid by a slightly lower trill, and beneath that comes, at intervals, a chirping. Besides the insect songs and an occasional crow’s call, distant “guns” break the stillness from time to time as an overcast day slips toward its end. It is too late in the season for the loud reports to be aimed at frightening deer out of the orchards, so they must be intended to keep deer, raccoons, and crows out of the still-ripening field corn south of Kovarik Road.

One stalk of milkweed is almost an entire world. Like the air—and like the season itself--milkweed pods, still green but with their green fading to grey and a soft, subtle lavender appearing along their veined bellies, are swelled full with ripening seed. The pods are soft and supple at this stage. They are all business, preparing for another season’s life, but the angles of their connection to the plant stalks is whimsical to the human eye. The leaves are another matter. Taken as an individual, each single leaf is a marvelous instance of nature’s complexity. Rather like the shell of a turtle shell in shape and veining, it displays irregular rows of tiny cells between veins, and along the veins daylight comes through the leaf wondrously.

Goldenrod is equally complicated. A single clump of tiny flowers at the end of one branching plant is rich with dusty yellow pollen, and the branch and then the plant must be multiplied many times to get an idea of only one stand among the other late summer weeds—spotted knapweed going all stiff and prickly, Queen Anne’s lace drying to brittle birds’ nests, wild grapevine still green and lush and luxurious as it spreads through the rest.

Gradually the grey clouds move off to the east, leaving blue sky and smaller, softer white clouds at day’s end. A tiny breeze rises to stir the mulberry leaves, and the grasses and goldenrod sway. Like a benediction, the last light of day pours over the west end of the barn and the bank of willows along the stream.


Dawn said...

Seems so peaceful. And I've never looked at milkweed this late in the season, but before the pods split open. Next walk in the park with Katie I will!

P. J. Grath said...

One year a friend who grew up in New York (City) and spent most of her adult life in Australia had a hard time believing that milkweed flowers and the later, dry pods were the same plant. Since then I've paid attention to them in every phase of life--and always thinking of her when I look at them, too! "See? They really are!"