Tuesday, July 27, 2010.
Time is slipping away.
Elizabeth is here. The Melville postmaster, Rick Schuler, has disapproved of her working so hard, spending so much time in frenetic San Francisco, and not being in Montana; he has greeted her return—for a whole week—with a hearty welcome and a soupçon of reprobation, along the lines of We want to see more of you next summer. Linda and Glen Westervelt, who keep the store (and are therefore Rick’s sole companions for much of every day, even now in high summer), are too shy to scold Elizabeth, but they have shown concern for my solitude. Sparse on the land though the citizens of Sweet Grass County are—3600 on its 1,187,200 acres, and half of them crammed into Big Timber—they are as social as New Yorkers, and, like New Yorkers, they wonder a bit at a person who likes to be alone.
I am happy that the folks at the B.S. Corner now understand that I’m not some wacko loner, that I like to come and linger over one of Linda’s excellent burgers to hear the midday palaver of busted gears and rusted gates and cows out on the county road, and that I do still have a wife.
We go to the prairie, this time with Anita Pagliaro’s sister, Carla, a painter. We find many familiar flowers gone (these I have indicated below by showing their names in red) but quite a few new ones as well, and dammit, I have forgotten to bring pen and paper. The fact that this list exists will be explained anon.
Potentilla, a new species, prostrate, on flat shale
Aster sp., new
Allium cernuum: nodding onion—new and abundant
Shepherdia canadensis: buffaloberry—newly in bloom
some other shrub I ought to know, pretty clusters of flowers, opp. lvs.
Oxytropis splendens: showy crazyweed—this has been blooming for weeks and is now fading, but I’m just now figuring out the ID
Liatris punctata: dotted gayfeather—new; the signal flower of latening summer
Grindelia squarrosa: curlycup gumweed—acts like a weed (roadsides, bare soil) but is in fact a native
Ratibida columnifera: prairie coneflower
Erigeron pumilus: shaggy daisy
Solidago nana: low goldenrod
Potentilla diversifolia: regular old cinquefoil
Potentilla hippiana: silver cinquefoil
Oxytropis besseyi: Bessey’s crazyweed
Lupinus sp., best guess is argenteus: silvery lupine—I’ll never get these straight—in its glory now
Gaillardia aristata: blanketflower—many fewer
Eriogonum umbellatum: sulphur buckwheat, now fading to pink
Agoseris glauca: false dandelion
Anaphalis margaritacea: pearly everlasting—lasting but not really in flower
Linum perenne: flax
Penstemon eriantherus: fuzzytongue penstemon
Senecio canus: silvery groundsel
Cryptantha celosioides: miner’s candle—mostly gone
Cryptantha flavoculata: yellow-eyed cryptanth—mostly gone
Arenaria sp.: sand spurrey—mostly gone
Helianthella: little sunflower, the last few, up high
Campanula rotundifolia: harebell—the last few
Orobanche sp.: broomrape—amazing dark pink, turning to yellow as the flowers open; bright yellow center of fl.—mostly fading
mystery flower, small orange five petals, phloxlike fl., grasslike lvs.
Phacelia linearis: threadleaf phacelia
Potentilla fruticosa: shrubby cinquefoil
Sedum sp. (lanceolatum?): yellow flower, almost orange
Erigeron compositus: cutleaf daisy
Oenothera caespitosa: gumbo evening primrose
Castilleja sessiliflora: Great Plains paintbrush—a few still there but faded
Sphaeralcea munroana: orange globemallow
Achillea millefolia: yarrow
Gilia congesta: ballhead gilia
Hymenoxys acaulis: stemless goldenweed—last few, hanging on
Eriogonum sp.: another buckwheat, cream-white sparse balls
Gaura coccinea: scarlet gaura
And TWO flowers of the day, both new, neither a true clover:
Dalea purpurea: purple prairie-clover
And Dalea candida: white prairie-clover
And as we return, heading for the same old barbed wire fence at the precisely the same place where it tore my leg open seventeen days ago, where Anita and I the next day tried and failed to recover my notepad and pen, I see from the corner of my eye a color that does not belong: lilac. Winking in the wind. It is my notepad, rained on and shredded, my one page of notes long faded to nothing, but no longer litter. Carla comes over to share my astonishment, looks down, and says, “Here’s your pen.” It is stomped flat by who knows how many cows but it still writes.
Hence the list above.
Hence the completion of the circle of summer two thousand and ten.