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The Herd Mentality

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

On May Day, you're supposed to bring flowers to strangers. Well, yesterday I tried to do that. I guess I'll have to settle for bringing them to you.
Wood betony, the red kind (it also comes in yellow) and bluets.

It has been so great to hear from all you women out there who feel rolled under by housework and the sudden, hot hand of summer, with all its associated chores. I got an email from Wendi saying she grinds her teeth as she sits on the bleachers and cheers, thinking of all the other things she'd really like to be doing instead. And one from dear Erin reminding me how much it means to Liam that I'm there "watching" him do his thing. His shy little smile and waving hand say just that. He's the tallest kid on his T-ball team, and the helmet's way too small for him. I love to watch him run, elbows flopping.When can I hit?? Everyone's hit but ME. He looks so much like his dad here.

Yesterday, I tried to do some of both--support the kids and self-actualize. My reasoning goes thus: A happy mom is a better mom. So I brought along my camera and, with a self-conscious smile at the other moms, watched the practice for awhile, then climbed down off the bleachers and headed for the woods. I had to cross the playing field and climb a pretty tall barbed-wire fence first.
I am sure this cow had never seen a sports mom get down off the bleachers and climb her pasture fence. She was flabbergasted.What in the blue tarnation is that woman doing?

And I stampeded the whole herd. Ack! Ack! She's going to kill us! They thundered away, screwing their tails in the air, spewing manure and lowing.If I were the kind of person who got easily embarrassed, I'd really have been embarrassed at this point, with an audience watching me climbing a barbed wire fence, festooned in swinging optics, ripping my pants, and stampeding the herd.

But I had a strong feeling there was something worth seeing on the wooded slopes of that cowpasture. Little did I know.Jacob's ladder, named for its ranked pinnate leaves. And golden ragwort.

A fairy carpet of wildflowers lay spread before me. I walked carefully, trying not to crush any of them. I counted 21 species in bloom, and another four (Virginia waterleaf, bloodroot, hepatica, Solomon's seal) that were either done or not yet blooming. Too many for this late night post. More tomorrow, I hope.This is dwarf larkspur, a wild delphinium.

The magic that lies out in the woods, for anyone who's willing to climb down off the bleachers and cross a barbed-wire fence, is inestimable. I felt sorry that I hadn't brought anyone with me. I didn't know if they'd appreciate it as I did, if they'd realize what a treasure this one wooded hillside amounted to. So when I got back I passed my camera around and showed them. I got some "Huh's" and a couple of raised eyebrows and silent nods. Nobody said "Wow," or anything resembling it. Nobody seemed to want to see more than one picture, even when I told them there were 21 species of flowers blooming all at once. Nobody had any comment at all. Just a kind of lackluster boredom, or perhaps just reticence, an unwillingness to be challenged. I wondered about that, about this apparent lack of any enthusiasm for the natural world at its most enchanting and spectacular. It made me so sad. Who wouldn't want to see firepink? It brings me to my knees with joy whenever I see it.

To be fair to them, I considered the possibility that they may be afraid to engage me, this strange woman who had just done a series of things far outside their comfort zone, things they'll probably be able to tell their friends about, how she climbed a barbed wire fence and stampeded the cattle and disappeared into the woods. Imagine. I'll never know, probably, what they were thinking, or if they were thinking at all. It was probably a mix of all the above, with shyness and trepidation in the lead. I'm strange to them. And strange might be dangerous. Just ask the cattle. My perspective on the scene. Undeniably different. Oh, how I loved crouching on the flowery hillside, watching and reveling, and wishing there were someone to share it with.
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