Friday, October 19, 2007

Knowing the plants

It was a great moment for me when Gibbie, seeing staghorn sumac with it's drying flower clusters pointing up all over, said, "hey, that looks like fruit!" What kind of fruit, we asked? And he said, "Sumac!" I was particularly proud because the sumac flowers we have gathered looked very different from these, because these had all lost their leaves. Yup, we've been making a tasty juice from the flower clusters, and he's even developed an appreciation for licking the sour fuzzy flowers.
I do hope the kids grow up knowing how to read the land and plants. In the above photo, you can see dozens of different plants. I don't so much care if he knows all their names (I sure don't!) but I'd like to teach him, and learn together, and I'm sure eventually learn from him, all about them. Know how to make baskets from the bark of the white trees, as he calls them. Know how to eat the different parts of the milkweed plant during different seasons. We can dig the wild parsnip, and look forward to the raspberry and blackberry seasons in their turns. We will look around for the jewelweed when we get a nettle's sting and pop the seeds out at each other in the late summer when the pods are spring-loaded.
Here Gibbie is enjoying the tactile beauty of the ready milkweed seeds. Soon he will scatter them in the breeze, as any happy person will.

Fall is a great time for gathering basket supplies; we collected willow and cattail. They are drying on the porch, if one can call it drying with all this rain! I look forward to weaving them up into beautiful and useful things when we are stuck inside later in the year. That's the great beauty of this world; In the plants, seemingly dying back in the fall, are the stores for new life, promises of fresh vigor and growth next year, and abundant material for wild and artisinal beauty. This world is so made that in a deeper sense than I can grasp, dead things are always and everywhere coming to life, greater and better than before they fell. I am thinking of the food we eat, the seeds we sow, the troubled lives we live, and Christ himself.

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