Behold! Our Drainage Ditch

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, as the wise saying goes.  Last weekend, I struck out from the house toward our drainage ditch with pruning shears in hand, aiming to take down some weeds that were threatening to spread into the pastures.  I reached the edge of the ditch and started cutting down the Beggarticks, a beautiful plant actually, with a striking yellow flower.  It was a shame to cut it down, but it seeds like crazy. 

I started edging towards the center of the ditch, keeping an eye out for snakes, when suddenly the entire width of the ditch came into view.  It was gorgeous!  Okay, so the atmosphere had a lot to do with it.  It was a beautiful early September evening with temperatures in the 70s, no biting bugs, and with the setting sun, it was a photographer’s true golden hour.  But the plants growing in the ditch were a sight to behold.  In addition to the Beggartick’s bright yellows, I saw maroons/purples in the leaves and seed heads of the tall airy Virginia switchgrass.  Many plants I haven’t identified yet offered beautiful textures and shades of greens, browns, pinks and even blues.  Even the poison ivy was beautiful (never thought I’d say that) as it was beginning to turn its early fall orangey shades.  But the focal point in this ditch was a single huge millet (or bulrush?).  Wow.  Its drapey seed head was over 5 feet off the ground, and it looked like the seeds were just spilling out of the top, poising for a good drop.  The seed head’s color was what really caught my eye.  It matched the sunset—a gorgeous salmon-orange.

It’s times like these when you’re outside, in nature, all alone, that something can really strike you and hold you there for a moment.  After about 30 seconds had passed, I even said softly out loud, “you’re so pretty!” to the millet.  It was overwhelming to me that nature would combine this majesty of plants in a big utilitarian man-made drainage ditch.  I was without a doubt in the right place at the right time.  

Walking back towards the house, I thought about many of Gene Logsdon’s writings on finding supreme peace and beauty in your own back yard.  I love this passage, at the end of his All Flesh is Grass book: 

“To name all the myriad lives, botanical and biological, that find home in the meadow would bore the reader, I fear.  And most of these lives I do not even know yet.  I walk my pastures enveloped by them all, finding on every walk something new or something reassuringly old.  I sit at the top point of the pasture hill, look over my little domain, and wonder why I have been so blessed to be here and blessed even more by knowing for certain that I do not want to be anywhere else…”

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