Morning Thanks

Garrison Keillor once said we'd all be better off if we all started the day by giving thanks for just one thing. I'll try.

Thursday, August 04, 2016

Morning Thanks--The moral of the coneflowers

I'm no Thoreau. Besides, I came into this outdoors stuff only at retirement, when for the first time in my life I have time for things I'd never otherwise, like gardening, like trying to create order out of the chaos of our backyard every day. 

Thoreau, as all writers do, tried his best to make sense out of chaos, bring order to things, even some enlightenment to a world he saw hip-deep in "quiet desperation." He looked and touched and tasted of life in the wild, then recorded what he'd experienced in Walden, a memoir that follows the seasons.

Thoreau discovers--and preaches--truth as he sees it in natural phenomenon. Elegantly, too, in a style I wish I could emulate, but simply isn't mine by birth or circumstance. 

What may well have been on my mind when I shot this picture is the death of Ohio Representative Steve Latourette, who told those assembled at his retirement that he'd always considered "the art of being a legislator is finding common ground." It's no wonder he retired early. That thought stayed with me out back because these days it seems so rare.

I planted this coneflower after picking it up as a late-season special, half-off, last summer. I'd like our acre of grass to take on a little colorful diversity. The field grass is nice, and I love it; but native wild flowers would be a blessing. So every once in a while I pick up a special or two and urge it to take root out back in the long grass. 

Last year, I surrounded these coneflowers in chicken wire to keep varmints off; and this year, when it rose from the grasses it was looking decidedly healthy. Trees you can't baby forever, I was once told--eventually, you've got to cut off whatever guy wires you're using to keep them upright. 

Wouldn't the same be true for coneflowers? Get rid of the chicken wire. Unbind 'em. Stop babying this plant. It's time for it to grow up on its own. I've become Republican.

Here's what happened. When the wiry refuge came off, the stalks weren't strong enough to weather the weather. They leaned and swayed as if they'd drunk too much country sunshine. But  now they're flowering, those pink faces rising to the sun just as fully and beautifully as if they were perfectly upright. 

I'm no Thoreau. But my prairie coneflowers offer a moral to consider. For some time that little protective cage I wound around the plant kept off the bunnies and whatever else may have been looking for some variation in his or her diet. They needed that support to get going.

When that welfare disappeared, things looked shaky, wobbly; but today, those flowers are a blessing even though they rise to the heavens on stems that'll never right themselves. 

American legislatures have been fighting about welfare since the Great Depression--no, since 19th century battles over what people called "the Indian problem," as if they were the ones who created it. Does public dole create laziness or is it necessary to help people get on their feet?

Republicans have used welfare queens to prime the base for decades, while Democrats prompt socialist dreaming with sweet talk about equal opportunity. 

My coneflowers are doing well right now. Okay, they're a little out of shape maybe, but they're beautiful. Seems to me the Dems and the GOP are both right. "The art of being a legislator," as Latourette said, "is finding common ground." 

We could use more of that.

My coneflowers are making it this summer. Just for the record, you should know that not every transplant does. But these guys virtually guarantee a dozen more next year. This morning I'm thankful for what all that bent up color suggests. 

And I'm neither quiet nor desperate either, Henry David.

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