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A summer affair (08/28/2005)
By Janet Lewis Burns


     
Wanderlust is calling...my passion can't be quelled. The magic of richly hued finery, flirtatious winks, and aroma therapy, beckons a smitten admirer. Beyond visual gratification, I reach out to embrace.

With wicker basket and scissors, I set out on my golf cart to familiar haunts, with burning energy. A forest and a wildflower field are features of Oak Grove, where we escape each weekend to our Chetek getaway.

I stay behind to stalk other prey, as most squatters hit the lakes for fish and tranquility. In an early morning hush, my will gave way to desire. The golf cart has restored my freedom to roam.

Gathering two bunches yesterday, and one this morning, I dubbed each collection accordingly. Every month something new arises from the earth's generous bosom, as others dry and succumb. "Good death," I say to myself, finding charm and allure in all forms and stages of newness and decay, objects of my affection.

One bunch was just right for the narrow glass neck of a maple syrup bottle. I named it "a study in death." The focal point is a bunch of clover, skeletal beyond its season. The spikes appear to be encased in a milky film, their features stiffly intact, faded to soft lime green.

Some Queen Anne's Lace has already braced for its farewell. Those lacy, white umbels fold together in a woven clump, similar to a bird's nest or a ball of tightly wound string. There remained many still fully garbed, each delightful in a bouquet.

Rust brown mullein stalks have a rumpled texture. Used in the "dead" arrangement, I often stick a couple in the midst of wildflowers as an eye-catcher, along with willowy, wheat-colored grasses. Those with curlicues ribbon the others playfully.

One has to look patiently to find browned blooms, preserved in intricate detail. Others metamorphose to transparent tear droplets along a fine stem. Bare buttons of black-eyed Susan dot the arrangement.

Seed pods, amid tangled underbrush, like exposed hearts, throb between "arteries." Light green this trip, they can appear like petrified, variegated-gray wood... "good death."

Yesterday's second bunch was fondly called "splendor in the glass." Though on their way out, here stand handsome, yellow black-eyed Susan and Queen Anne's Lace, also called wild carrot, picked tall for the center of the arrangement.

White and purple daisy fleabane, and "butter-and-eggs toadflax," which I identified in "Peterson's Guide to Wildflowers," resembles their name sunny-side-up. Like bursting fireworks, there grew wispy grasses with a hazy pinkish tinge, not as purple as foxtail barley grass but a striking contrast to vivid colors.

Today's "berry patch" bouquet came about as I veered from the beaten path, following rugged tracks in the thick of things, as the sinking thought of that hard to turn reverse gear clouded my pleasure.

There I spotted red and orange berries. I felt guilty helping myself to rich meals that birds and bees likely set their sights on. I cut only two full twigs, imagining what would compliment yet another arrangement. Obsession!

I was anxious to work my way back to familiar territory, where the huge pile of lumber scrap towers over thistle and goldenrod, and back to campers on neatly tended plots.

Along with small red and yellow leaves and a dwindling growth of white daisies and purple and blue phlox, the berry patch finally took shape, although symmetrically flawed due to tangled stems. I'm careful not to uproot.

Back to the lake, Pat came in from fishing with a meal of bluegills and a weathered glow. In sunshine that is welcomed, we took a late afternoon boat ride, carried along on a voluminous tide turning back into its radiant body.

I felt completely emptied of myself. Is all the world starving for that same moment of peace?

As we sat on our deck in a fiery twilight brimming over with birdsong, I noticed that a spider had not hesitated to weave a lifeline between two wildflowers in the fruit jar.

My gathered arrangements will wither away by our next visit. That spider had not intended to stay long anyway. It was just a summer affair...that's all it was. 

 

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