Saturday, August 2, 2014

Mystery solved: Purple rain Tangled up in blue

For the better part of the past week, my Better Half [BH] has been fussing about the challenge of trying to identify an unusual wild flower when the only place she's seen it is in the median on I-35E when she's traveling at 70 miles per hour. Her verbal descriptions, although accurate, didn't seem sufficiently to match any of the purple-blue plants in our field guides. I was leaning toward declaring it hoary vervain that she was seeing, but wasn't absolutely convinced I was correct. If you follow the link, you'll see the troublesome note under the left side photo. So, I asked where along the highway she had seen these mystery plants. When she told me, I realized that there was a parallel road, not a frontage road but similar, I could check and see if I could get any decent photos. This was the best I could do with my 300mm telephoto lens. The mystery plants are the purplish ones.

mystery plants in the median
mystery plants in the median
Photo by J. Harrington

The shape (BH: "sort of like a hand") was an issue. Back to the field guides. I have to learn to remember that when anyone says a plant is purple, said plant might, just maybe, be found in the blue section of field guides. Further evaluation led to the conclusion, reasonably firm this time, that the plants are blue vervain. This was confirmed on the way home from dinner yesterday evening, when we were driving across the midsection of Chisago County and the BH noticed a gang of the suspects in a field on the north side of the road. I did a mild trespass to pick a sample and take a close up with my smart phone camera (proving that sometimes a good small camera can beat a good big camera). Notice the sort of "hand shape" of the flower spikes.

close up of mystery plant: blue vervain
Photo by J. Harrington


All of this detecting work reminded me a little of Dylan's closing lyrics from his great song in Blood On The Tracks: Tangled Up In Blue.
"We just saw it from a different point of view
Tangled up in blue"


Jessica Greenbaum's story tells us that wild flowers bring more than mystery to life, although love is usually a mystery, isn't it?

For a Traveler

By Jessica Greenbaum 
I only have a moment so let me tell you the shortest story,
about arriving at a long loved place, the house of friends in Maine,
their lawn of wildflowers, their grandfather clock and candid
portraits, their gabled attic rooms, and woodstove in the kitchen,
all accessories of the genuine summer years before, when I was
their son’s girlfriend and tied an apron behind my neck, beneath
my braids, and took from their garden the harvest for a dinner
I would make alone and serve at their big table with the gladness
of the found, and loved. The eggplant shone like polished wood,
the tomatoes smelled like their furred collars, the dozen zucchini
lined up on the counter like placid troops with the onions, their
minions, and I even remember the garlic, each clove from its airmail
envelope brought to the cutting board, ready for my instruction.
And in this very slight story, a decade later, I came by myself,
having been dropped by the airport cab, and waited for the family
to arrive home from work. I walked into the lawn, waist-high
in the swaying, purple lupines, the subject of   June’s afternoon light
as I had never been addressed — a displaced young woman with
cropped hair, no place to which I wished to return, and no one
to gather me in his arms. That day the lupines received me,
and I was in love with them, because they were all I had left,
and in that same manner I have loved much of the world since then,
and who is to say there is more of a reason, or more to love?


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