Sunday, November 7, 2010

A MILKWEED PHILOSOPHY


A few mornings ago, I pulled the pickup off the shoulder of a nearby rural road and looked at what a passing autumn had left of a big patch of staghorn sumac. Not long ago the sumac clump was a glorious sight—it's multitudes of long leaflets a flaming scarlet, like head-feathers on a Lakota war bonnet. Now the leaves were mostly down, the patch in tatters, and only a hint or two of red could still be found in the drying clutter beneath the twisted branches.

I'd stopped because of what lay behind the sumac thicket—the start of a narrow path, invisible from the road, which leads into the old field. If you follow it long enough, this track—really not much more than a game trail—will lead you across the weedy meadow, over a low hillock, and beyond to the banks of the same river on which my cottage sits a couple of miles downstream. Alas, my time was limited, stolen between errands, and I knew I couldn't make it to the water—but I also needed to get outside for a bit, stretch my legs, breathe the crisp November air and feel the sun on my face. 

A hundred yards in I paused to photograph a milkweed seed pod which had split open, the bright morning sunlight sparkling off its exposed seeds and silks. The larvae of monarch butterfly feed solely on milkweed. Milkweeds belong to the genus Asciepias, named after the Greek god of healing because of the plant's long history in folk medicine. My grandfather taught me to rub milkweed sap on a poison ivy rash—and it does seem to work, at least about as well as any store-bought remedy.

Suddenly a gusty autumn wind blew across the open field, bending the dried stems of Queen Anne's lace, goldenrod, and purple coneflower. Milkweed seeds began streaming up and away, caught on the stiff currents, carried to a hundred distant corners of the meadow and who knows how far beyond. In less time than it takes to tell, the seed pod I'd been photographing was an empty husk.

On the way back to the truck it struck me that what I'd just witnessed was something I wish I'd learned far earlier in line—that sometimes it's simply best to let go and be carried by the wind. As a hard-core perfectionist and control-freak, it took me way too long the realize how often I stood in my own way. Goals and plans and a sense of direction are good things; don't get me wrong. But so are providence and serendipity. Sometimes it's best to forget strategy and intent and embrace the whimsical, the unexpected, the moment of adventure which can lead you to worlds beyond your wildest dreams. 

This is the milkweed's philosophy—be ready, and when the right wind comes along…just turn loose and go. 
———————

NOTE:  Bonnie, at Original Art Studio, recently asked if I'd be part of her ongoing series of blog interviews. I was both honored and humbled, and more than a bit anxious because I don't think I'm all that interesting—especially considering the quality of the interview subjects who preceded me. Nevertheless, I hope you follow the link above and see what you think—and then, read a few more of Bonnie's always interesting posts. If you've not made Original Art Studio's acquaintance already, you'll be glad to have found her blog. 

And…I thank you, Bonnie, for making this whole process fun (really!) in spite of my initial fears.         


      

44 comments:

Jayne said...

I recently photographed a dandelion doing the same thing and some of the same thoughts went through my head as well.

I loved your interview with Bonnie so much Grizz. Matter of fact, I think it was the best one yet... but could be cause I feel I "know" you a little bit. You were brave to be so open, and it was a joy to get to know you even a bit better.

Have a beautiful day.

George said...

A wonderful, thoughtful, and thought-provoking post, Grizz. Plans and strategies versus Providence, serendipity, and whimsey. I chose the former in my youth, but now feel more comfortable with the latter in my advancing years. The Tao Te Ching wisely advises:

"True mastery can be gained
by letting things go their own way.
It can't be gained by interfering."

A time and a place for all things, I suppose, but now is the time of nonresistance, a time to stand in awe and observe, a time to trust the process, a time to let go and be carried, if the need be, on the back of the western wind.

I loved your interview with Bonnie! Great to learn more about you, though I must admit, to your credit, that the essence of who you are is always apparent in Riverdaze.

Grizz………… said...

Jayne…

I wish I'd have gotten a shot of the seeds on their silks flying off the pod—but I was too busy watching nearby weedheads dance and bend.

You do know me, I expect. What you see/read here is pretty much me, though without too much of the dark, negative, down-at-the-mouth side showing. I tried my best to be open and honest with Bonnie's questions. I do think I come off sounding more interesting and self-assured than I really am, though…at least sometimes. Thank you for your nice comments.

ellen abbott said...

Great interview over at Bonnie's. I don't believe I've ever stumbled on your place before. Beautiful photos. I love the milkweed pod bursting. I grow it here and the monarchs have given me endless entertainment. One day I was determined to watch a caterpillar change into it's chrysalis. spotted one attaching and going into it's 'J' shape. thinking it would take a while and I would check on it later, the next time I came out (about 20 minutes) it was done! so the next time I pulled up a metaphorical chair and watched. It was the most amazing sight. and it only took about 15 minutes.

Grizz………… said...

George…

As we get older, I think many of us controller/planner types learn the value of loosening the reins, even…GASP!…letting go entirely, allowing ourselves to be carried by the situation and moment rather than the other way around. Therein lies a great freedom, don't you think?

Thank you, too, re. the interview. I thought it turned out great. It even resembles my self view in places…though I know I'm not nearly so sterling a character, or half as interesting. One thing I learned long ago about writing—you can either create this persona and strive thereafter to keep it up, or simply be yourself. I don't trust or particularly care for writers who conceal themselves from their work. I like open honesty, quirks and all. I think most readers feel the same. I hope that always applies to whatever I write.

Grizz………… said...

Ellen…

First off, I'm glad you found your way here—welcome to the riverbank. I'm hope you always enjoy your visits. Thank you, too, for commenting.

You're right about the speed with which caterpillars change into their chrysalis form—and I'm sure most of us find this transition occurs way faster than we first expected. It doesn't take long. To watch it happen is just an amazing thing.

Again, thank you for sharing and please know you're always welcome here.

Richard said...

Great interview Grizz. I think you would be someone I would just like to set on the riverbank with. We might not say much but at the end of the day we both would have enjoyed the experience.

Grizz………… said...

Richard…

I consider that the highest of compliments…and I believe absolutely that we could have a fine day together. And, maybe that will one day happen, either my river or your lake. Though for my part, I'm not too sure or time would be too long in silence.

Thank you.

Wanda..... said...

Beautiful photo, the seeds look like little ballerinas dressed in silk.

If I weren't already following "Riverdaze"...your interview with Bonnie would make me want to rush here and do so.

Bonnie said...

Well ... I am at a loss for words. Your picture and prose are breathtaking! A stellar post with which to regale new visitors to this blog. I hope there are many as a result of the interview, and I thank YOU for being so gracious about it all. I wonder if readers realize how much work it is for the interviewee!

Thank you, too, Grizz for the link and kind words.

Gail said...

HI GRIZ-

I so enjoyed the interview over at Bonnie's place. And this post is wonderful. Just like you.
love Gail
peace......

Grizz………… said...

Wanda…

I live that description…"little ballerinas dressed in silk." (BTW, the proper name for the silks or floss is "pappus," which always sounds to me like something nasty you need to see a doctor about.)

I appreciate your words regarding Bonnie's interview—but I'm really glad to count you among my earliest—and favorite—readers. I've always admired your blog; it was one of the reasons and models for Riverdaze.

Grizz………… said...

Bonnie…

Thank you, for your comments, for asking me to be an interviewee, for doing such a great job with what I gave you…and for being a faithful reader of Riverdaze and friend.

I appreciate everything…

Grizz………… said...

Gail…

The real please of this blogging business is not in counting numbers of readers, or any ego boost of seeing your words "out there" but in the pleasure of sharing—and most of all, in the friends you find along the way.

You are a dear and faithful friend, and I appreciate you very, very much .

Hilary said...

A beautiful philosophy - one of many I believe we can learn from our surroundings. I just came from your interview with Bonnie. I'm happy to find your fine blog with beautiful photography.

Gail said...

I am blushing like a shy school girl!! Ya, right!! :-)

Freda said...

Have just read your interview over at Bonnie's - here I am and hooked already. Every Blessing

Grizz………… said...

Hilary…

I'm glad to have you here, and pleased you liked what you found. You're always welcome.

You're right in that we can learn so much from nature—including another viewpoint to leading our daily lives, though not forgetting there's a difference to being shiftless and irresponsible, to simply being open and willing to take a chance.

Again, welcome!

Ruth said...

Let me introduce myself, Grizz. I'm Bonnie's friend Ruth. I was hooked at her interview with you when I saw your photos, and read about light. What I see here at Riverdaze is a love of nature, gorgeous photography, beautifully clear and insightful writing, and some of my own good friends. So I already feel at home.

Congratulations on the great interview, and on a beautiful blog.

Grizz………… said...

Gail…

That's just radiant heat from your woodstove… ;-)

Grizz………… said...

Freda…

Blessing to you, too…and welcome to the Riverbank. Glad you found your way here and liked what you saw.

Thank you for your nice words re. Bonnie's interview.

Grizz………… said...

Ruth…

So far as I'm concerned, any friend of Bonnie's is always welcome here on the riverbank. I hope you visit often and always enjoy your time spent.

Blogwise, feel free to consider this your home-away-from-home.

And thank you for your nice comments.

Hilary said...

In Al Anon, and AA too, it is called Let Go, and Let God.
Works every time.

Bernie said...

Grizz - I love how you spend your days and all the little things that bring not only you but us, your readers a sense of peace and calm as we read your post.

One of the best interviews I have read Grizz - a combination of Bonnie's questions and your answers made for a great read, no surprises here, I always knew you were the kind and honest type.

Have a great week....:-) Hugs

Dan Gurney said...

Hi, Grizz,

Our mutual friend, Bonnie, introduced me to your blog today and I have to say I am bowled over by your prose and photography--and also the sensibilities and honesty that the writing and images reveal. I'm glad to have a new regular read.

Grizz………… said...

Hilary…

Yes, I've heard the same from folks attending both places, and also from the pulpit of various churches. And I have no quibble with it at all. Here, I was thinking on a smaller scale—about resisting the urge to preplan our lives down to the last detail, to insist on knowing all the answers beforehand.

For example, when my daughter was growing up (I raised her as a single parent) we used to go on about a 10-day camping vacation every summer. With a couple of exceptions, every trip we took was decided on the fly—that is, we packed up, got in the pickup, and turned left or right at the end of the street. After that, we tried to never get on an Interstate. Otherwise…we just went where the roads took us. In this manner we visited the Carolina coasts (North and South), Florida and the Gulf, Lake Superior all the way around, the Dakotas and Mt. Rushmore, the Smokies, and dozens of other places. We went on hikes and ghost hunts, toured homes of authors, visited historic sites, caves, backwoods fishing camps…and the list goes on—and never did we have a clue what a new day would bring or where we'd end up. Once we went from western Florida to the Georgia coast to the Balsam Mountains in North Carolina.

We gave ourselves to the wind…and I don't believe years of planning would have surpassed our adventures.

Thank you for visiting and commenting. I hope you return often. You're always welcome.

Grizz………… said...

Bernie…

Thank you, as always, for such lovely comments. I do appreciate them—and I hope you alway enjoy a visit here.

Re. the interview…the truth of the matter is that I hope my answers relate as reasonably accurate picture of who I am. I tried to answer Bonnie's questions as honestly as I could. In the end, I simply didn't know what else to do…

Grizz………… said...

Dan…

Nothing pleases me more than for someone to visit these pages and find them worth their time to revisit again and again. I hope you always enjoy stopping by. You're certainly always welcome here at Riverdaze.

And thank you for your kind words re. the prose and pix.

Tramp said...

A thought-provoking piece. I am one who tries to plan, gets frustrated if I can't, makes plans that are impossible to keep to, then end up floating in the wind. Looking back, some of the best things that have happened have happened because I have let go. Thanks for making me stop and look back for a moment.

I enjoyed your interview immensely. In the year I've been visiting your blog I've always felt welcome,learnt a lot, laughed, been picked up, been inspired and felt a genuine honesty here. There is no river near us but I know I can find a bit of down to earth wisdom over at Riverdaze with Griz and friends. All power to your elbow.
...Tramp

Cicero Sings said...

I very much enjoyed this post AND the interview. I don't often comment but I do read your blog regularly. Would you mind if I quote your answer about the river? I did a post about a river and your answer puts another twist on what I had to say. I really liked it. I found ALL of your answers most interesting for that matter. Thanks for taking the time to answer the questions with such honesty and completeness.

Cicero Sings said...

P.S. I wanted to mention, that it was because of Father Tim that my now late husband, got over his fear of commitment and agreed to marry me. I owe Father Tim MUCH. I had the best 5, almost 6 years of my life with my dear D before he died suddenly of an acute heart attack in June. I miss him hugely but would not trade those 5 almost 6 years ... no siree.

Grizz………… said...

Tramp…

I know exactly where you're coming from re. planning—or at least the illusion of total control I think it gives. And yet…there is so much joy and adventure, so much to be learned, so much LIFE in the letting go and allowing the wind to carry us where it will sometimes.

What is trust other than letting go?

What is love?

In boxing, there are punchers and counter-punchers…the planners and the let goers. We usually root for the puncher; he takes the fight to the opponent. But just as often, the counter puncher wins. And when you think about it, they're often the better fighter because the puncher has to have things go his way, while the counter-puncher simply reacts, able to turn whatever it takes in a scored point.

There's both thrill and freedom in not always sticking to the plan—sometimes reward, sometimes simply learning how to scramble and stay out of clutches of disaster. Turing loose does have it's place.

Finally, thank you very much for your nice compliments. I hope you always—ALWAYS!—feel welcome here. You certainly are. And know I enjoy just as much your visits.

Grizz………… said...

Cicero…

Yes you may use my river answer. I would appreciate your inserting a link back to here if it's something you feel comfortable doing. But that's not mandatory.

I'm so sorry to hear about your husband. But I'm glad Father Tim steered him to committing his heart and life to your marriage. Short as your married days together were…they were enough to treasure always. Many folks never find a real love and soulmate. Sounds to me like you did. Life doesn't come with a guarantee, and therefore time is always very precious—especially in our relationships.

Thank you so much for sharing this here.

Jenn Jilks said...

As ever, food for thought. I married my mother, and they are much like you. I love letting go and flying in the wind.

Excellent post.

MorningAJ said...

The photo and the writing are both gorgeous. Thanks for sharing the moment.

I grew up by the seaside so I call the idea "following the tide". But I'm with you all the way on this one.

Grizz………… said...

Jenn…

I'm not always that way—though more nowadays than I used to be. There's certainly a place for plans and schedules, but serendipity has its value, too.

Grizz………… said...

MorningAJ…

"Following the tide." I like that. Living beside a river, I suppose I could say "going with the flow," or "riding the current." I was just heading back to the truck to continue running errands and got to thinking about those milkweed seeds sailing off on the wind which, in turn, caused me to consider my plans and how I'd just as soon turn loose and let the rest of the day carry me along.

Thank you for your nice comments, and for visiting and comment. You're always welcome here.

Lorenzo — Alchemist's Pillow said...

Dear Grizz, yesterday after reading your interview at Bonnie's, I visited here for the first time and, moved by your photography and writing, my finger was soon hovering over the Follow widget. For some reason, I did not click, saved it for another day, as I am wont to do. Now, I have just come from seeing your warm caring comments at George's Transit Notes. Today, I click.

It is great to meet you through two such beautiful friends a Bonnie and George and here at your blog.

Grizz………… said...

Lorenzo…

Thank you for your wonderful comment. I'm so very glad you visited, and pleased that you liked what you found here. I want to earn your follow click, not simply expect it—and I truly appreciate each and every reader who has chosen to add Riverdaze to their list.

I don't know George (or Bonnie, for that matter) in person, but in many ways I expect I know them personally—or I at least know the essence of their characters. I think of them as friends. I know George is hurting right now, emotionally and physically. And I know how that feels and what it does to a good man of thoughtful and compassionate nature. I've been exactly there myself.

I believe when all is said and done, friends are one of life's greatest treasures and blessings. I wish with all my heart I could help my friend George though this valley. All I can offer are words of encouragement and solace from one who's walked the same road, and a promise to keep him in my thoughts and prayers.

Again, welcome. I hope you drop by often. BTW, seeing as how I mentioned my late friend Frank in my comment to George, you might like to see the piece I wrote about him last year.…

http://riverdaze.blogspot.com/2009/03/golden.html

The Weaver of Grass said...

Wise words Grizz. I did enjoy the interview over on Bonnie's blog - I feel I know much more about you now.

That photo of seed pods is wonderful. But for absolute awe your snow on the river photograph on Bonnie's site takes some beating - it is exquisite.

Grizz………… said...

Weaver…

Well I'm delighted you liked my wintery river shot…I thought it was nice, but almost didn't send it to Bonnie because I though the last thing more folks would want to see was a snow scene.

Having been one of my long-time (and favorite) readers, I expect you already knew most of the best and worst of character traits. I've not done much of a job of hiding the "real me"on Riverdaze.

Raph G. Neckmann said...

Oh the glorious 'moment of adventure'! When all one's strategies and goals are laid aside, and yet also actually fulfilled!

Wonderful post, Grizz, and I'm off to read your interview now!

Grizz………… said...

Raph…

Though Mole would have been frightened into near fainting by the very prospects of such a notion, ol' Ratty would have embraced it wholeheartedly! We riverbankers know the best adventures simply occur.

Scott said...

Congrats on the interview, Grizz. (No reply required.)