The side of the road.

A summer of outdoor walks: in my midwest neighborhood; in hot and humid Florida during late June; in Deadwood, South Dakota at the end of July; and in Eagle River, Wisconsin the first week of August. Some hikes offered spectacular sights, such as mountains and hills, not found in Illinois. Some provided a temporary respite from other vacationers, a solitary meander allowing me to mutter aloud and not care what expletives dropped from my mouth. The most memorable wasn’t a hike at all because we weren’t allowed to leave our cars (safety concerns, don’t ya know): Bison in Custer State Park. The herd probably numbered a hundred or less. I happened to be reading Empire of the Summer Moon, which described bison at their peak in the early 1800’s running in herds of 4 to 5 million.
Beyond my ken.


The Mickelson Trail (George, not Phil) provided a charming and quite private hike (not another person seen for four miles), the scenery a mixture of the bucolic and the mundane. A pine tree growing straight out of solid rock startled me and the rushing creek accompanying the path silenced all thought.

The Mickelson Trail

All of these meanderings had one thing in common: weeds. Weeds at the side of the road, weeds in the water, weeds chewed into cud. I saw more weeds during my summer walks than the 19th century bison roaming the prairies. At times, their variety, color or shape stopped me in my tracks to admire and applaud. Planted, planned gardens are beautiful. But this summer of weeds has provided me with a larger sense of the endless wild palette nature serves up, always available just a walk down the road.

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