If you live in a place long enough, you will see plants at their prettiest. This is one of the best years for bloom on the prairie flameleaf sumac (Rhus lanceolata) that I can remember, in the quarter-century we've lived on this land--to the great pleasure of tiny sweet-toothed insects who delight in the nectar.
We have literally hundreds of these small trees on our 31 acres, and the females (yes, the lovelier of the species) are covered with glorious clumps of creamy-white blossoms. The trees usually reach their zenith in late October, when the shortening days turn their leaves to a flaming red and these pretty flowers have ripened into conical reddish-brown drupes that are a mainstay winter food of deer, raccoons, and possums. Native Americans steeped the fruits of various sumac species in water to make a tart drink, sometimes called Indian lemonade or Rhus juice. They also used the bark, leaves, roots, and fruits of various species for a wide range ofmedicinal purposes, from treating toothache to tuberculosis.
But I don't have to wait until October to see the sumacs in full glory. This morning, I walked through a small forest of them in the east meadow, their blossoms buzzing with insects, the dawn-washed air fresh and cool, the dogs eagerly snuffing out the scents left by coyotes and armadillos that passed this way in the night, and a blue sky arching overhead. Such bounty, such grace. What else can we do but be grateful?
Garden report. This is lay-by time, between the spring and fall gardens. We've eaten the okra and tomatoes we wanted and the chickens are getting the rest, along with the small, seedy Porters. Heat and drought are powerful put-downs in the summer. But I need to start tomato seeds for fall. Maybe I'll do that today.
Book report. The Darling Dahlias and the Eleven O'clock Lady is done, but my editor is on vacation, so I'll hold onto it until she comes back. I've done some work on the memoir that my brother John and I are writing, and caught up on a couple of backlogged projects. I'll have word for you on another exciting project by mid-week, so stay tuned.
Reading this week: Mockingbird Next Door, by Marja Mills. I'll post a review of this sometime next week, over at StoryCircleBookReviews. Did you know that I edit this site? We do some great things over there. You can subscribe to our monthly emails here.
Reading note. If the only prayer you said in your whole life was, 'thank you,' that would suffice.-- Meister Eckhart