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Mack Williams: Slice of country meadow

On my exercise walk several weeks ago while it was yet summer, I compared the comeliness of a string of yards down Danville’s West Main Street. My comparisons were only happenstance, but here in the city a more professionally judged competition exists (“Yard of the Month”).

One yard had only roses, already fading, with petals strewn randomly on the ground (having much less sense of “direction” than when cast by youthful flower bearers at a wedding).

Another had only pansies, ready to make their valiant stand against future snow, sleet, and freezing rain.

Then, after seeing yards typified by “anal” orderliness, I came across something “wild.”

In one thin section of yard, bordered on both sides by closely cropped grass, there was a wild “spray” of bright orange-yellow blooms in the late afternoon sun. With their vibrance, these flowers looked almost electric, but instead of an outlet, they were “plugged” into the ground.

There had been no trimming to even up the varying stems’ heights; so if an imaginary line had been drawn to link those differing peaks, an approximation of the ups and downs of the Dow Jones would have been achieved.

The owner, out walking his dog told me he had purchased some packs of wildflower seeds at Lowe’s, just scattering them within that narrow strip, no orderliness of rhyme or reason involved. The unusually brilliant colors, along with a similar, almost rebellious opposition to order, made me think of the word “riotous.” (Just now, I’m reminded of a variety box of 45 rpm records my mother bought me in the late 1960s, upon which was printed the words: “Record Riot.”)

This image brought back an earlier one of the large meadow of wildflowers next to my grandfather and grandmother Williams’ house in North Wilkesboro. It also reminded me of similar flowers in my childhood yard and the field between the homes of W.A. Cline and “Pud” Lyerly, across the road (Old Concord) from me.

From both fields, I have memories of black-eyed Susans, sticky thistles, morning-glory vines, butterflies, and the Clines’ scuppernongs (which tasted great). I caught my first Great-Spangled Fritillary butterfly in my grandparents’ North Wilkesboro field, then snuffed out its little life in a bug-killing jar prior to adding it to my childhood butterfly collection.

In that recent little bit of city “rural-ness” I noticed no butterflies; but if there had been, they would have been completely safe from me, as I long ago amended my butterfly killing and collecting ways.

On the next day, I took a walk by that same yard after dark. By the light of a nearby streetlamp, those previously brilliant oranges and yellows had become pale white, as white as the Southern Cabbage Butterfly (the caterpillars of which farmers hope to destroy with Sevin dust, as they eat cabbage).

The flowers were then so pale that I wondered if their previous color had been only the sun’s reflection, with no contribution by the blooms themselves.

When I walked by the following day, I almost got the idea to step into that country meadow slice. For that’s what it seemed to me, something cut from a rural field, brought into the city on a giant pie server, then deposited into a rectangular-shaped hole (as opposed to a pie slice’s isosceles triangle).

I thought that when standing in the midst of those wildflowers, some sort of old age “tunnel vision” would allow me to believe I was standing in an open meadow again, not very unlike those along the Old Concord road or the one belonging to my grandparents along North Wilkesboro’s Sparta Road.

While paused there amidst “Van Gogh” colors, wild in nature and wild in sense, I would not have been very surprised to have looked up and seen a sky consisting of short, choppy, blue brush strokes. If I had lingered after dark, the stars might have similarly “swirled” in the finger-paint style we used back at Granite Quarry School.

Walking past there again, just after the beginning of this year’s autumnal equinox, I noticed the little triangle was greatly thinned out; but then realized that such had been achieved by nature, not man. Just as the owner had scattered the seeds randomly and naturally, so was he letting the plants perform their own “thinning” through attrition.

These flowers had marked their season; and the time had come for their seasonal departure.

This last, thin slice of summer’s cooking was disappearing, soon to be replaced by a whole pan of freshly baked fall.

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