Sunday, June 9, 2013

Putting down roots

I hear leaves drinking rain;
I hear rich leaves on top
Giving the poor beneath
Drop after drop;
'Tis a sweet noise to hear
These green leaves drinking near.

W.H. Davies, The Rain

So the rain falls and falls in this late Spring, feeding the amber waters of the rushing Minnehaha Creek, running high in its banks and carrying paddling ducks downstream on a much wilder ride than usual.

Between rain showers, I've cleared a bit more space on the south side of our house and tucked in clumps of native flowering plants dear to bees and butterflies: Hoary Vervain, Aromatic Aster, Yellow and Long-Headed Coneflowers, Butterfly Weed (for the monarch butterfly caterpillars, which feed only on milkweed), Prairie Phlox, Anise Hyssop, White and Purple Prairie Clover, Elm-Leaved Goldenrod, Virgin's Bower.

All perennials, so it will take a while for them to get established and begin to flower, especially with the cloudy, cool weather. I feel a bit like a just-planted bit of flora myself, feeling my way back into my native soil, spreading my root system, deciding which direction to grow.

Kew Gardens in May

Though it is nine days into June, the maple seeds still hang in clumps, helicoptering down and sprouting at will. The peony buds still swell slowly, ready to burst into bloom with a week of sun. The brief flowering of crabapples and lilacs petals all washed away in spills and squalls of raindrops.

Prairifire Crabapple we planted last spring

My young north boulevard tree, a Prairie Gem Pear that replaced an ailing Ash, just welcomed two vigorous  new Ussurian Pear cousins, courtesy of the City of Minneapolis Forestry Division. Despite its name, this species hails from Asia and is not native to Midwest prairies.

But it does flower in spring, and if can't be local, it is at least ornamental--and small enough to live under the power lines without getting butchered by the utility company.

To further dive more deeply into a Minnesota frame of mind, I just read Letters from Side Lake: A Chronicle of Life in the North Woods by Peter Leschak, who has lived for nearly 40 years in a log house he and his wife built on a parcel of land in Lake Country. (Which is what Minnesotans also call "Up North," to distinguish it from the rest of a very lakey state). 

If I had any romantic illusions about the idea of "living off the land," they have been dismantled. But there is a lot of territory between living off the land and living closer to the land, in search of older traditions made new, and that is the direction in which I am being pulled. Feel free to suggest any readings that may have inspired you on the subject, I am eager to soak up more.

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