Our Patch Mountain Sunday becomes quiet once more . . . but its atmosphere has changed and our sense of the other, older, time has deserted us. Vanished like vapor. We sit in the shade of this century, a bit lost.
The snarl and whine of a chainsaw drifts down. It’s not hard to imagine the enduring but prone white ash being sawn asunder; cut to blocks; its essence slipping down past us here where we sit. The life of the ash drifts down off the mountain, heading toward town.
After our rest we start back up-mountain. Up past the tamaracks, past the old apples. The ash comes into view. No more voluminous. It lies in neat cylindrical blocks around the feet of the sawyers. In cross-section its wood is pure white and unblemished. Not a trace of rot.
We leave them to their fitting labor and climb back up the mountain past orange day lilies. These are high in sun on the edge of woods. Once cultivated in dooryards, they are now called escaped wildflowers; further evidence of departed lives. According to Peterson’s Edible Wild Plants, a good food source little known. You can make fritters from the flowers, prepare its tubers like corn. It tastes like asparagus to me. These tangles were once at the center of town. Or, more broadly, the center of New England life. For that matter, all of the dominant American life was so centered. Once. Once upon a time. Now Allen and I stop to look closely at day lilies. I pick off a bloom and turn it upside down.
The day lily has no actual petals. The orange and yellow bloom is sepaled not petaled. Sepals are green on most flowers, usually clasping the petals at their base where the ovules are hidden. Six yellow-orange stamen project from this lily, fuzzed with pollen on each tip. The style, a longer thinner tube, shoots above them from the ovary at the base. These two parts comprise the pistil.
I peel apart the sepals to find a pale green hidden ovary, slice into it with my thumbnail, revealing minute green ovules. They had waited the entrance of pollen spores. After pollination the ovules would dry and fall to the ground as seed. I hold out the along thin style, with pistil and ovary at opposite ends—for Allen to examine. Then I pick a stem with several budding blooms and tuck it into our lunch bag.
We climb back up Patch Mountain and find the car, never having seen the paper company’s Fathom Pond. We saw but the quiet remains of old homesteads, vital only in memory. In memory. And there not as trespassers.
© by S. Dorman. Used with permission of Wipf & Stock Publishers.