OCTOBER by Robert Frost
Common Name: Fringed Gentian
Scientific Name: Gentianopsis crinita
Habitat & Range: wet prairies & meadows, along streams and lakes
Bloom Time: late summer & fall
About: I see fringed gentian regularly up at Camp Lake Louise, but I only have pictures of it from odd years because…it’s a biennial! It takes two years to bloom and, like most wildflowers, should not be picked or dug up. Since 2013 is an odd year, I was on the lookout for them on our trip this year, but it’s been a cool summer and the late summer wildflowers were not in bloom yet when we were up there.
In addition, like many other wildflowers, it depends on a mycorrhizal relationship. In other words, it can only grow where certain bacteria or fungi are present in the soil, so if you decide you are the special exception and you’ll just go ahead and take that plant home thank you very much, it won’t grow in your yard anyway, so please leave it be and bring home some nice photos instead.
The fringed gentian has been the subject of some poetry over the years, including
God made a little gentian;
It tried to be a rose
And failed, and all the summer laughed.
But just before the snows
There came a purple creature
That ravished all the hill;
And summer hid her forehead,
And mockery was still.
The frosts were her condition;
The Tyrian would not come
Until the North evoked it.
“Creator! shall I bloom?”
William Cullen Bryant
Thou blossom bright with autumn dew,
And colored with the heaven’s own blue,
That openest when the quiet light
Succeeds the keen and frosty night.
Thou comest not when violets lean
O’er wandering brooks and springs unseen,
Or columbines, in purple dressed,
Nod o’er the ground-bird’s hidden nest.
Thou waitest late and com’st alone,
When woods are bare and birds are flown,
And frosts and shortening days portend
The aged year is near his end.
Then doth thy sweet and quiet eye
Look through its fringes to the sky,
Blue–blue–as if that sky let fall
A flower from its cerulean wall.
I would that thus, when I shall see
The hour of death draw near to me,
Hope, blossoming within my heart,
May look to heaven as I depart.
and Robert Frost
I felt the chill of the meadow underfoot,
But the sun overhead;
And snatches of verse and song of scenes like this
I sung or said.
I skirted the margin alders for miles and miles
In a sweeping line.
The day was the day by every flower that blooms,
But I saw no sign.
Yet further I went to be before the scythe,
For the grass was high;
Till I saw the path where the slender fox had come
And gone panting by.
Then at last and following him I found–
In the very hour
When the color flushed to the petals it must have been–
The far-sought flower.
There stood the purple spires with no breath of air
Nor headlong bee
To disturbe their perfect poise the livelong day
‘Neath the alder tree.
I only knelt and putting the boughs aside
Looked, or at most
Counted them all to the buds in the copse’s depth
That were pale as a ghost.
Then I arose and silently wandered home,
And I for one
Said that the fall might come and whirl of leaves,
For summer was done.
Reference: Wildflowers of Michigan by Stan Tekiela; Adventure Publications, 2000
She stalks on silent feet,
her knees strumming reeds
like lyre strings,
to where the sand and water meet
and picks through flowers and weeds
and insect wings.
Small steps—reverent, searching—
then a solemn bow,
hunched, eyes to ground.
Not with humble offering—
no guilt is etched in her brow,
no conscience bound.
No religious rapture
draws her to the shore,
but pressing need
to scan the stones and capture
pieces of the earth before
they’re lost indeed.
She rises, steps a pace,
then bows low once more
to seek her prey.
She runs a leisurely race,
slowly ransacks nature’s store—
She fills her bag with stones
clicking into place—
rock upon rock—
flicking sand, skirting the bones
of the catfish left as waste
down by the dock.
Not aching for the one
that might inhabit
the empty square
in the cabinet, or stun
guests, compel them to grab it
and demand, “Where?”
She chooses those that please
her eye and her hand,
both dull and bright.
Underwater, in the breeze,
stones worn smooth by scouring sand
now come to light.
She has no need of them
and they none of her
and yet she goes
each summer to look for gems
before they’re buried under
the winter snows.
Oh, March. You fickle month. You bringer of sunshine and rain, then ice and snow. You can’t decide whether to reveal the toll the winter has taken on the earth or to cover it all back up again. The birds sing, the red-winged blackbirds and robins and turkey vultures have returned, the very first crocuses have bloomed and frozen. The sap and the rivers are running, but I am sitting inside with my coffee wondering just how much longer until I can get out in the gardens and start cleaning up your mess.
Here’s a poem about March I wrote in 2007 and have been modifying ever since. I think I may have it how I want it now.
Month of crows
Driven rain in slush-filled gutters
All the flotsam of winter’s rage—
Empty bags whipped in wheezing wind
Parking lot valleys in the shadows of
Mountains formed from filth and snow and abandoned shopping carts
The frail sun pretends to shine
A sudden squall and all is beaten down again
comes the green
comes the green
The sun shines stronger
the days grow longer
and all my fondest hopes of spring
see fulfillment in one blossoming
We’ve recently had some lovely frosty, clear mornings in mid-Michigan and I’m glad I had my camera handy when I was dropping off my son at school.
Mornings and evenings in cold weather are what make the dark and dreary winter months more bearable, and may even lift them to a level more on par with the wonder of springtime.
There are so very many lovely things in this world, to be found in all seasons.
We woke up this morning to a beautiful dusting of light snow, though most of it is melted now. The trees are all bare, but for a few that keep their leaves rather tenaciously, like the oaks. Puts me in mind of a little poem I wrote last November I’ll share with you here.
I think that may be the last thing I painted, an entire year ago! I’ve been getting the itch to paint again, though my usual spot in the sunroom has been taken over by model trains for the winter.
The waning months of the year are when we start getting those “Top Whatever of 2012″ lists sprinkled across various media outlets, and before that silliness begins, I’m taking a moment to analyze my own year.
I’ve spent most of my free time in 2012 sewing clothes for myself, contributing to the Sew Weekly, and editing a novel. It’s been a very self-focused year. I was convicted of that this morning. As we near the beginning of Advent and the beginning of winter, I hope to turn my thoughts and efforts more toward others, which, as a writer who tends toward introversion and introspection, can sometimes be difficult to do.
I wonder if you’ve ever had the same epiphany, that your life, energy, and efforts were too focused on yourself. Assuming the world doesn’t end in a few weeks, what are you going to do differently in 2013? Where will you put your efforts? Will you spend your time entertaining yourself and thinking of ways you can further your goals? Or will you conscientiously look for ways to serve? I want to look beyond myself and I pray for the passion and focus to do so. I want to be one lone oak leaf that, in dying to self, can live in such a way that my efforts ripple outward and touch every corner of my pond.