Tuesday, June 23, 2009



The wild prairie rose is my absolute favorite North Dakota wildflower. It has a wonderful scent, and is always in bloom on my birthday. One of my most treasured possessions is a dried prairie rose in a glassine case, with a note written by my mother, dated June 23, 1959: "Julie just brought me this rose. She certainly does love flowers."


I have a broken heart. Something that I desperately wanted - no, desperately needed - at this time of my life has been taken away from me. Rather, I should say, denied me, because it wasn't really mine in the first place.

I won't go into details about the situation, but I do want to tell you how it has left me feeling: tearful, unwanted, old, useless, insignificant, stupid, inferior, powerless, naive, broken, defeated, hollow, hopeless, set adrift, second class, disrespected.

That is a whole bundle of bad emotions - really some bad juju to be carrying around. Fortunately, after a few days I am past the worst. I'm not crying any more: There aren't any tears left to be shed at the moment.

Of course, I have had way worse things happen in my life. My family is fine, and Dan is not divorcing me! Compared to the deaths of loved ones, this doesn't even place very high on the list.

But with each sorrowful event I've lived through, I have discovered that there comes a time when one cannot stand the intensity of the emotions. The more intense the emotions, the less the body can take it, and has to begin to return to normal.

That's the point I'm at now. So how do I begin to recover? Funny as it may seem, I have been receiving solace from a poem. It's "What is so rare as a day in June?" which I printed in my post of June 10. To be sure, it has been resonating with me. I originally used it to illustrate the rare beauty of June days, but now I am recalling lines that remind me of the healing powers of nature in the summertime.

How about:

"Now the heart is so full that a drop overfills it, We are happy now because God wills it; No matter how barren the past may have been, 'Tis enough for now that the leaves are green."


"Who knows whither the clouds have fled? In the unscarred heavens they leave not wake/And the eyes forget the tears they have shed, The heart forgets its sorrow and ache."

Is it really true, could immersing myself in the natural world this summer restore my soul and replenish my depleted sense of self?

If I sit every fair evening under the old elm tree that shades my deck, as I have for the past 26 years, will I again regain the happiness I have found there? When the thick leaf canopy blocks the rain, when the branches sough as a cooling breeze springs up, when the leaves are silhouetted black before the full white moon, will I feel a surge of pleasure and forget my tears? Will I then go to bed and sleep deeply and well?

If I sit by the Missouri River and try to follow the course of one drop of water, will I realize that life flows on, and that like rain and evaporation, it is part of a great cycle that usurps you and me?

If I drive up the hill to the lookout blockades at Fort Abraham Lincoln, will I remember the struggles of those people who lived here long before me - both the Native Americans and the soliders of Custer's Seventh Cavalry?

If I listen to bird song, will I allow my precious "illumined being" to be "o'errun with the deluge of summer it receives"?

If I watch waves lap against the lake shore at the immense Lake Sakakawea, will I realize that "whatever life has ebbed away, comes flooding back with a ripply cheer, into every bare inlet and creek and bay"?

If I sit "in the warm shade" on newly-cut grass, will I "feel right well"? Will "the heart in my dumb breast" flutter and sing?

If I drive out of town in order to look up at a night sky undimmed by city lights, will I realize my insignificance - and at the same time, my greatness? After all, said Carl Sagan, "We ourselves are made of star stuff."

If, having written about the wild sweet rockets and recalled other beloved North Dakota wildflowers, will I re-discover the joys of my childhood?

That's yet to be seen. Reminiscing about my favorite wildflowers is my first step in the healing.

North Dakota wildflowers aren't terribly showy. We don't have meadows full of fireweed or bluebonnets, rivers of California poppies, hills of golden daffodils. No, North Dakota wildflowers are usually quite small, low to the ground and hard to spot. They may be insignificant, humble and fragile, they may stand alone, they may be battered by rain and winds, but they survive, and maybe, just maybe, I will survive this too.


The New England wild aster may have had its beginnings in the East, but now it is common across the US.

Individual flax plants are not very striking, but a field of flax resembles an ocean - a true blue ocean on the prairie.

These tiny flowers are actually more white and pink in color than scarlet. These are very delicate and lacy plants, only a few inches tall.


Loco is "crazy" in Spanish and describes the erratic actions of horses and livestock that eat this poisonous plant. As a child who was known to sample the nectar of flowers like lilac, honeysuckle and bluebells, I am so glad I did not sample this one.


The pasqueflower, which everyone around here called crocus, is the first prairie flower to appear in the spring. Like other flowers we discovered as kids, crocuses grew along the tracks in Larson. That's because land next to railroad track is virgin soil - undisturbed prairie. The insides of the petal cups are the palest, faintest lavender - almost white - and the outsides are a darker lavender.



The yucca is usually associated with the Southwestern US, but it grows here too! It's one of the more outstanding ND wildflowers.


I am violently allergic to this beautiful, Monarch-butterfly attracting plant. One time I was at the river bottoms south in Bismarck when entire meadows of milkweed were in full bloom. By the time we went home, I had the worst headache I'd ever had in my life, and had other symptoms which lasted more than a week.


This is the wild equivalent of the garden flower liatris.


I don't think common yarrow is common at all. It is a wonderful medicinal plant. Native Americans made extensive use of yarrow, including employing it to stanch wounds.


These are among the most delicate of plants, their stems whisper thin.


The railroad tracks were just a block south of our house, and we often walked on them for miles, either east or west of town. We found these flowers as we headed west. We called them sweet peas and picked them by the bunches.


These are the wild equivalent of the cultivated Virginia Bluebell. I could always count on finding a clump of them near the old abandoned Railroad Superintendent's house adjacent to the tracks.


This plant is terribly invasive, but oh, the wonderful smell, especially as the evening draws near and the flowers release their scent.


These aren't as dramatic as the cultivated purple prairie coneflower, but I like them better. The pink petals look like ballerina dancers' skirts to me. When echinaea was all the rage as a cold remedy a few years back, people were digging up and destroying these plants to sell.



These lilies seem to be almost too bright and exotic to be North Dakota wildflowers.


These flowers are only a couple of inches tall and are hard to spot. Because of this, kids are the best people to find elusive wildflowers. These grew in only one place that I knew about - under huge twin cottonwood trees on the southwest edge of town.


Airy, delicate, fragile - beautiful in both bud and bloom.


This beautiful fall flower has been accused of bringing on hay fever, but the actual culprit is ragweed!


I never saw this flower growing around Larson, but when I visited friends on their farm not that many miles south of town, they had them in their pastures! I was so envious!


During times when coffee is unavailable or has become too costly, people have used chicory as a coffee substitute, and this is what the settlers on the prairie did.



I did not pick this flower, but left it where it grew. It is both stinky and sticky, making it undesirable as a cut flower. (But still pretty!)



JoAnn ( Scene Through My Eyes) said...

What a touching post - and those flowers - they might be small and insignificant - but they are tough and strong and persistent - just like you.

You might never know the influence you have on others - and how your strength helps. I found your blog very early in my blog-reading days and it was like someone had given me a special gift - I almost jumped up and down and clapped my hands in glee after first reading your blog - I was so delighted - so excited to find someone with a like mind - and ever so much more in word ability than I will ever have.

I am sorry, my sweet friend, that this hard time has come upon you. If I were a fairy I would give you your every desire - and deserved reward - but I'm just a human so I will hold your hand, pet your hair (that is a family favorite of ours - often someone will say, will you pet my hair, I'm sad) and listen to your sweet words, in whatever form they take.

We are both going through some trying times - sometimes my strength seems it will give out - but I keep putting one foot in front of the other - and when I am very low I come to your blog and re-read some of my favorite older posts. Thank you for all you've given me, and many others.

Let's all look for fairies tonight about sunset - I know they were out there two nights ago - I could feel their wings whispering as they flitted about. I love you my sweet, dear friend.

gma said...

What a lovely comment from Peicefulafternoon. I agree with what she says. You are the best! So many pretty flowers. I noticed alot of them are purple.
The prairie must be gorgeous.
I think the Prairie Smoke is cool looking.You are so right about finding solace in the natural world.
I send love

Lila Rostenberg said...

A beautiful post even though it comes from a broken heart, or maybe because it comes from a broken heart.
Hugs to you dear Julie!

LW said...

Julie I am so sorry that you are hurting right now….

I do hope that summer and pretty wildflowers help heal the pain and
disappointment that you are feeling right now.

My daughter just had a very big disappointment.
Her story is too long to go into here; it was a three-year plan that just evaporated. Leaving her very surprised and hurt. I have not heard hurt in her voice like this in many years. My five old year granddaughter upon seeing her mother’s teary eyes asked her if she fell and hurt her knee. Oh to be five again and have mom bandage
and kiss the pain away …

This is a touching and beautiful post. With some of my favorite wildflowers pictured. I just added the PRAIRIE SMOKE as a must see onto my “must do” someday list….Or bucket list which I prefer not to call my wish list that is becoming longer as I grow older.

Is it not odd that we open ourselves up in time of pain and let the beauty within us shine a wee bit more…

Take care and tea with
the fairies tonight,

Odette Bautista Mikolai said...

The long wait is so worth it. This is such a very nice and touching post.
Of course, Julie in our life there will be pains - lots of it that we will wonder why we aren't taught pain management! We may be able to deal with hurt, only to be replaced with wisdom but we continue to struggle against cynicism and bitterness. But we will always survive because life offers a lot to look forward to.
But the biggest thing you should remember, is that you are never alone and you will never be. there is always someone who has gone before you, and someone who is right behind you and a countless others who are walking beside you.
have no fear... those pretty flowers tells us life is still beautiful!!!

Colleen - the AmAzINg Mrs. B said...

Although I do not know what has transpired, you, m friend, are strong, intelligent and caring - and with those attributes, you will find solace, love and respect. I know this is old advice, but time does heal..and for anything to take even a minute of the beautiful life from you is not what you need to focus on. So, know that we are embracing you from near and far..

Sweet healing thoughts to you, my friend :-)

Mary said...

I'm so sorry for your disappointment and pain, Julie. I do hope that you will find comfort and solace in the beautiful prairie blossoms. Your courage shines through in every word of this beautiful post.

Unknown said...

I find your blog to really resonate with me. My five sisters and I were born in NorthDak. We call it the "motherland". My Dad and Mom are from near Washburn. They are buried in the Hensler cemetary. My mom was Norwegian. Although I have not lived physically in NorthDak for many,many years, it is very much with my thoughts. Your blog helps me keep in touch with these deep northern plains roots. I planned to spend a few weeks at the family place this summer but was derailed by mother nature in the form of an ice storm this winter and the repairs to the roof of the house and the rebuilding of our yard and garden. I also had a health issue that but this trip on hold. I was hoping to meet you and bring you messages from Arkansas.
Lila and I have been friends from our meeting in 9th grade. We call each other our "oldest friend in Arkansas"!
Thank you for helping me keep this link to who I am and from where I came in my memory. After looking at the pictures you post and can almost smell the sweetness of the sweet rocket and other flowers be they in well tended gardens or dancing wildly in the windblown grasses.

Rowan said...

The wildflowers of your area may be small and not especially brightly coloured but they are just as important in the great scheme of Mother Earth as the more glamorous ones. I hope that you find healing from contact with the earth, certainly you are none of the things in your list except,just at this moment, tearful. All shall be well,and all shall be well,and all manner of thing shall be well.
Dame Julian of Norwich - 14th century - mystic

Ruthie Redden said...

dear julie, i feel so for you at this time, to be hurting so bad is an awful thing. small steps, little by little, the things that gave your heart joy & comfort will begin to weave their magic again. x x i am sending you hugs across the miles x

Anonymous said...

So sorry to hear of your grief, wishing you strength and peace in the company of beauty and nature.

Casey said...

So sorry to hear you are hurting. I hope that by now everything is right in your world.

howtomendabrokenheart said...

In any relation heart is broken when some one do the things which don't like by us.
Depression after a Breakup