Letter from Birdland | Flowers are therapeutic

Letter from Birdland | Flowers are therapeutic

In Birdland, we are under a heat advisory, and I feel limp with humidity.

Walking to work, I watched a gigantic dragonfly capture a smaller insect. It flew weaving around about 10 feet in the air, homing in on its quarry, and then darted up to hover high above after the capture.

I kept walking, but my mind was on my garden and the flowers I picked yesterday. Picking flowers is my therapy. It's the season of the golden light.

The corn that surrounds the house has suddenly dried to a tawny gold all the way to the tassle.

Black-eyed Susans bloom long and last for a week at least after I cut them.

The sunflowers that tower over my corner meadow branch into more and more blossoms. I finally cut just one stem, but got enough to put three blossoms each in my matching bouquets. Like the Susans, they have petals the color of the yolk of my chickens' eggs, only the big sunflowers have yellow pollen sifted on the brown centers like gold dust.

I added just one stem of curly dock seed heads to each arrangement — dark brown spears of seeds that match the brown eyes of the other flowers — and a couple of stems of foxtail grass to soften the angles.

Goldenrod is just beginning to turn from green curving clusters to gold, and I picked a few that had already bloomed.

I added one stem each of gooseneck loosestrife (which looks to me like goldenrod's civilized cousin), and finally, one purple bull thistle flower for a color contrast.

I think it took an hour to arrange the flowers, from walking through the meadow path to choose the right blooms to cleaning the leaves off the stems (watching out for the prickles of the bull thistles took extra care) to cutting each stem to the correct height to selecting the vases and finally, arranging the bouquets.

But for that hour, my cares dropped away as I bathed in the beauty and presence of the flowers. Flowers are therapeutic! Picking and arranging them calmed me, and now remembering their colors and scents cools me as I make my way through the hot park toward my office.

At home, later, I step out into the evening and watch the rosy afterglow of the sunset in the west. It's cooler now, and there is enough light left to make my way through the corner meadow to my tomato patch.

I fill my basket with a few cucumbers, tomatoes and one crookneck squash. On the way through the flowers, I pause at the line of ghost lilies.

Last time, I wrote these words: "Ghost lilies have finally faded, the pink trumpets withering and dropping off to reveal stout seedcases like green marbles."

But now I see that I have made the mistake I warn my students against. I trusted my imperfect memory. I assumed that I knew what ghost lily seed cases looked like, and didn't think I needed to leave my keyboard to go out into the garden to look again.

The ghost lily seed cases are indeed a dark, shiny green (and have dark brown streamers that I didn't mention, the wilted petals hanging from every fruited stem instead of dropping off, as I said), but the simile is imperfect because they are not round like marbles. They have three lobes and maybe they look more like giant, green peppercorns, but I'd have to go inside and shake some peppercorns out of the grinder to tell you for sure.

Instead, I think I'll stay out here and enjoy the falling temperatures and the rising song of the frogs, katydids, cicadas and other night creatures.

I look to the east and see one bright, lovely star with an almost orange tint, and I wonder if it is Mars. In the east is another bright star and I wonder if it is Venus.

The sky is darkening, and the night song is rising, and I realize the flowers still have their power over me. I stand for a while and think about how easy it is to think you know something.

Create in beauty; ripple in peace; blessed be.

Mary Lucille Hays lives in Birdland near White Heath. She is constantly reminded to check her sources. You can follow Birdland on Instagram (@BirdlandLetters) and Twitter (@BirdlandLetters). Mary can be reached at letterfrombirdland@gmail.com or via snail mail care of this newspaper.

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