Saturday, July 3, 2010

BEAUTIFULLY COMMON

What could be more commonplace in an old field than teasel? It is so widespread, so ordinary, so expected that whenever we spend a hour exploring a wild meadow or fallow farm corner, we push it aside without giving this familiar plant a second glance.
Why? Are we just being blinded by impatience? Or is our overlooking a symptom of something deeper…perhaps a modern capacity to seek out and appreciate the beauty of a thing only if it is gaudy or rare?
How much joy do we miss by failing to recognize the wonder in the everyday?
A couple of evenings ago, as I ambled about a weedy prairie border, I stopped to admire the teasel head in the above photo. It wasn't showy in the least compared to a neighboring stand of purple coneflower, or the yellow rosinweed blooming beyond. Moreover, there were dozens of similar teasel heads poking up nearby. Yet something about this particular teasel caught my eye—perhaps the way the warm sidelight from the setting sun seemed to catch and tangle in the head's sharp prickles.
Beauty, they say, is in the eye of the beholder. And it could well be I'm more than a little strange to look at what so many view as a common noxious weed and see in it a moment of singular comeliness…though if this be the case, I hope you'll restrain yourself from trying to "set me straight."
No, I'd rather continue to regularly fool myself by finding the exquisite in the ordinary. Or to put it another way—uncommon beauty in the beautifully common.
———————

18 comments:

George said...

Something changed technically and I am now getting access to your most recent posting, and a fine one it is. Finding the exquisite in the ordinary is both a commitment and an art, and I would never try to "set you straight," Grizz. With the conditioning that comes with decades of being set straight, it's a wonder than any of us can even pay attention to wild things.

The Solitary Walker said...

Yes, the beauty which may be discovered in the commonplace, the wonder often spilling from the ordinary. How we all need to be reminded of this from time to time. So thanks for reminding us, Jim.

Gail said...

HI GRIZZ-

I couldn't agree more. Great picture of common beauty and excellence - wonderful.

I am so often in awe of the simplest form of regular things - rocks, wood piees, bark formations, odd plants and speaking of odd - I NEVER knew the word teasel - thank you, once again, for a lesson well taught about something so commonly beautiful.

Love to you
Gail
peace and hope

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

George…

The "something" which changed technically was that, following your initial message, the dunderhead who inadvertently messed things up in the first place, in an astonishing fit of semi-geekhood and against all logical odds, managed to figure out what was wrong and muddle his way through the fix.

Will wonders never cease!

Amen to the invariable dysfunctionality of being "set straight" way too often. Lucky for me, being of Irish extraction and as hardheaded as a Kentucky mule, I was seldom, if ever, set straight by anyone re. anything…and have the scar tissue and calluses to prove it.

Nature, however, does set me straight, but only when I finally stop, shut up, remain quiet…and see with my heart as well as my eyes.

KGMom said...

A lovely photo indeed.
Thanks for having the eye, and the camera to capture what you see.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Solitary…

I've long thought that so much strife in the world—in our own lives and relationships—could easily be reduced by half if only we all occasionally took the time to look beyond ourselves, to contemplate the wonders which surround us, to daily practice that Navajo credo to "walk in beauty."

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Gail…

The word comes from the Old English, having the same root as "tease" because it was once used to tease, or pull up, the nap on wool cloth used in garment making.

In the fall, you might want to pick a few of the dried heads, spray paint them gold or silver, and place them in a bowl as a centerpiece decoration—or hang them on the Christmas tree.

I've also seen them cleverly used in their natural color, with an added "tail" of black or brown suede leather (attached where the stem jopins the spiny head), a couple of suede "ears," black bead "eyes," and nylon "whiskers" (all on the pointed, top end), for the cutest little mice you ever saw. Kids absolutely love 'em.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

KGMom…

The camera is just an old D-70; the eye, whatever I have, is just there—like being able to play music by ear. Learning to see comes naturally. ;-)

Tramp said...

Griz
Having read this I recalled my Mum getting us to paint teasels gold or silver for Christmas decorations. She was always one for giving importance to everday things. Then I read your reply to Gail's comment. Perhaps that's why I feel at home when I visit you...Tramp

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Tramp…

What a lovely comment! I hope you do, always, feel at home here on these pages…because you're a welcomed friend and member of this riverbank family.

Scott said...

Teasel's not nearly as common here in the Mid-Atlantic as it is in my home state of Ohio. So, it's a relatively rare treat for me. In fact, when I see a teasel, I appreciate it all the more for its specialness--even though it is non-native and invasive.

The Weaver of Grass said...

I too am a teasel lover Scribe - here they used to use teasel to brush newly knitted woollen articles.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Scott…

I think teasel is quite lovely—and interesting in the way it blooms in bands around the head. It never seem all that invasive to be—but then I'm prejudiced toward beauty. Another case of one man's noxious weed being another fellow's roadside pleasure.

I'm glad you're not iron-clad in your attitude.

I'm resigned to forever being politically incorrect when it comes to my attitude regarding non-native species. Just because a plant or animal came from somewhere else doesn't automatically put it on my non-grata list. For example, I like honeybees (and honey), apples, dandelions (my favorite of all greens) and brown trout—and wouldn't send any of them packing if I could.

Which isn't to say some non-natives aren't invasive and a menace, or just plain ugly. However, if I could instantly remove any group of "non-natives" from the North American continent—if not off the face of the planet—it would be every BP executive, sycophant, lackey, and sub-contracting bootlicker who ever put profit before safety, decided to cut corners whenever possible, and lied every time their mouthes opened.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Weaver…

Teasel does have an interesting, and useful history—and I should have included more of it in my post. But maybe that's just a good excuse to write about it again before too long.

Joy K. said...

I read a LOT of nature blogs. Those that I like best are the ones where the author freely celebrates "the wonder in the everyday." There's too much wonderful stuff in the ordinary world to focus entirely on the rare and unusual.

Besides, one person's "commonplace" is another's "hey, that's pretty cool!" I don't think we have that plant where I am.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Joy K.…

I agree completely…there's wonder a'plenty in our own back yards if only we take the time to notice. The problem is not our surroundings and all the interesting and lovely treasures contained therein, but us, in our need for cheap thrills and an easy "gee whiz" experience. We're too lazy, too jaded, too caught up in a "big experience" culture to invest ourselves in seeing and being amazed by and appreciating the treasures at hand.

Okay, that's my sermon for the morning!

But thank you for your nice comments re. the blog. I'm glad you like what you read here. BTW, I enjoyed your "Saint Francis and the Dragon" post. And finally, according to USDA plant database, common teasel—Dipsacus fullonum, the plant in the photo—is found throughout most of Texas…so it's probably just rather scarce around your specific location.

Joy K. said...

It would amuse me to no end if I discovered that my field is covered in teasel, and I hadn't looked closely enough to notice it.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Joy K.…

Hey, it would amuse me, too…but I wouldn't throw the first pebble from my glass house. I'm perfectly capable of such an oversight. In fact, I've just learned—by seeing one!—of a bird species I didn't know existed. Not had never seen…but had never heard named, read about, or had the first inkling lived on the planet, let alone up the road.

I don't claim to be an expert birder, but I've at least read or heard about most birds I've never seen—especially those east of the Mississippi. I'm familiar with the checklist. Or so I surely thought.

But…either God just invented a new species and snuck it into my back yard, or I'm stupider than I think. The smart money would be on the latter…

Anyone can overlook a weed.