Last night, as we sat in the dusky glow before the sun sets, watching the first fireflies, instead of fireworks, appear, I mentioned that, due to the recent visit by goldfinches to the catmint, I was thinking of letting thistle go ahead and bloom instead of digging it up as usual, as goldfinches love thistle seed, too.
"It's illegal to grow thistle in Illinois," said my dad. "Thistle is strong enough to break a combine."
So, early this morning, still in my swimsuit from lap swimming, as I let the hose soak the flowerbeds in the shade, I dug up the thistles about to bloom, and the little ones along my side of the fence, the ones I could budge with a pitchfork and uproot.
Then it occurred to me to doublecheck the law. Indeed, a certain kind of thistle, Canada thistle, is illegal in Illinois. So is purple loosestrife, a beautiful but invasive plant that made its way into one of my poems, along with the legal wildflower yellow loosestrife. (Pretty much any and everything makes its way into my poems. And, hey, thistles made their way into the work of Robert Burns and Edna St. Vincent Millay, too!)
The thistles in my own back yard were about to bloom yellow, not lavender, as pictured here, in the beautiful photo by Richard Bartz. So, alas, I may have removed a perfectly innocuous, legal thistle, but they are prickly and could easily do harm to my husband's ankles, if not the lawnmower. Anyhoo, they are gone, and in the bin awaiting compost/yard waste pickup by our lovely town, which now also picks up recycling at the curb. Wooee!
And here is the globe thistle, also called Russian thistle in this area, that grows in the ditches beside the cornfields. Russian thistle made its way into one of my first short stories. I used to ride my bike out to the Russian thistles gone to seed, spray them with hairspray to fix them, and bring them home for use in dried flower arrangements--for home use or the county 4-H fair. Mabel, married to the farmer next door, told me how to do this. Mabel is buried up the road in Hudson, Illinois, and I will never forget her--her warmth, her jet black hair.
Who knew today would bring Mabel back to me so dearly?
"You must change your life," said Rilke. So that's what I keep doing. I worked as an actor, wrote for an encyclopedia, edited a literary magazine, and taught college English courses. Now I write poetry, blog "eight days a week," and listen to birdsong.