The big bluestem grass is beautiful along the Red River bank today. Oh, I know, you might say that I am exaggerating to call the sea of white-tan heads of tall grass beautiful, but they are gorgeous to me in the bright sun.
They stand nearly at my six-foot height as I walk through them. They cover nearly an acre of ground as they wind through a sun-lit opening in the forest along the river.
They sway gracefully in the wind in unison like an immense chorus of Degas dancers. And when the wind abates, they simply stand up proudly and usher you by as you pass through them.
I must have missed a stage in their development, the flowering. For now they are headed out, and we would say they are in the “crop” stage, if we were farming them.
I must have sat here looking at their flowering stage, and not even recognized it. Is their flowering so unspectacular? And why is it that some plants have beauty like a rose, and others have almost nothing?
I have plucked one stalk that I hold in my hand at the moment. I am always impressed with the extravagant nature of nature. There are always more than enough seeds for each plant to reproduce its kind.
The seed in this beautiful plant is very tiny. It has a small wing attached to it, which, I expect, helps to spread it.
The seeds are gathered in a small cluster, with perhaps 10 seeds in a cluster. This stalk that I hold has perhaps 50 clusters on it.
If you multiply that by the number of stalks in an acre, it looks like the big blue stem is here to stay. And in the meantime hundreds, perhaps thousands, of little creatures will be fed by this plant.
The big American elm that umbrellas me is now and then sending down drops of moisture onto me. I could be offended by that, but the moisture does not seem to be particularly offensive. I haven’t experienced this before.
The moisture is not sticky, like sap. It has a bit of color to it, as if it has come from off leaves or bark.
We are taught in sixth grade science that great forests give off gallons of moisture into the atmosphere. It is an extremely hot (over 90 degrees), dry day today. A stiff wind shakes the tree limbs above me quite violently. Is is possible. . .
I checked the surface of leaves near me. They are bone dry. What is the condition of the surface of leaves above me being shaken by the wind? Are they also bone dry as they are letting off moisture into the atmosphere? I shall have to only wish I had my sixth grade science teacher with me now.
James Alger, who lives in Fargo, N.D., has been a summer resident of the Leech Lake area with his family for over 45 years. Over that time he has grown to love and appreciate the people and the woodlands of this area.