Thursday, October 28, 2010

The Need For Green Plants

Wild Plants And Wooly Bears

We humans, whether we know it or not, have a need for green plants that transcends their ability to produce oxygen and provide food. It occurs to me now, while a few leaves yet cling to hardwood trees and my lawn cries out for one more mowing, that soon the world as we know it will undergo a dramatic transformation. It will turn white and green, growing things will seem so very distant.

Which is one reason that I do my best to circumvent the change, or at the least, stave it off for as long as possible. To that end, I have dug up some mint from outside and put it in a large planter in front of my south-facing glass door. In the same planter I have added Swiss chard. Hopefully, by mid-winter, I’ll have fresh chard for the occasional side dish and mint for use in tea and on lamb.

Also, the green stuff, chard and lettuce, in my unheated greenhouse, usually persists until well into December. When even that finally gives up the ghost, I resort to sorting through the plant photos that I took the previous spring, summer and fall. And sometimes, I’ll thumb through books, usually vividly-illustrated, old volumes featuring color plates of the various wild plants.

So viewing myself and my habits as if from afar, I realize that these things are all done according to a need. And as hinted at above, we all share that same need. Some evidence this by leaving Maine in late fall and heading south for the winter. It’s not just to get away from ice and snow, either. It’s to get in touch, once again, with green, growing things.

I'm sure that someone will wonder why I don't mention houseplants. These help, of course, but since they are present year-round, they never become conspicuous by their absence. Houseplants are fixtures, a given, and not indicative of change.

Taking things one step further, I believe that the green plants, particularly the wild ones, represent life. And more. For some, they are analogous to spiritual life, something beyond what we know now.

In short, our continuing relationship with green plants is a be-all to end-all of sorts, absolutely necessary for our well-being.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Pink Asters

Wild Plants And Wooly Bears

A mid-October fishing trip to the Piscataquis River in Guilford revealed a welcome sight. There, near a roadside turnoff, was a large clump of New England asters, Aster novae-angliae. That in itself is hardly remarkable. But their color, pink trending toward rose, was quite special.

These wild asters (relatives of the domestic asters that we go to so much trouble to cultivate) usually occur in a single shade of violet. Dark pink asters are relatively scarce. So I picked a large bouquet and put them in a cooler, along with some brook trout I had caught. Back home, these handsome wildflowers would grace my kitchen table.

New England asters usually last for a week or more when kept in a water-filled vase. Then, as they age, the petals, or rays, wither and white, fluffy seeds emerge in their place. I knew that would happen and so left my bouquet on the table. Visitors would probably think me slack, but it was my express desire that these asters would produce seed.

So now, probably this weekend, I will go out in my field and let the wind take the seeds to their final destination. And hopefully, these will come true to seed and next year or more likely the year after, my place will have, in addition to lots of violet-colored asters, at least some of the more rare, pink variety. And to me, that’s a big deal.