May Muse – candy flower

Claytonia sibirica

Early morning traffic streams by on 1st avenue.
The dog reads the morning news,
sniffing mown, tightly edged grass
and rank, pollen-scattering grass
with equal attention.
We pass creosoted utility poles,
auto service lot / squat,
one lone tent on the roadside,
men in muted colors shouldering their few possessions,
wild lettuce rising from cracks in the pavement,
Norway maple samaras as confetti on the sidewalk.
A rhythm beats overhead as
cars, trucks roll along the 105 overpass.
The sex smell of photinia in bloom mixes with exhaust.

A barrier of blackberries and house sparrows
marks the edge
city / nature.
Mud, stone, root, plastic snack wrapper:
our path through.
Up into the forested butte
where the dog calms
and the candy flower blooms.



Down on my knees,
I greet the small wonder of your generous blooms,
your succulent sweet spoon leaves,
weaving pink and white confections,
sugar sprinkle blooms
through the dappled light of the forest.

A throwback spring,
like the one’s the old time Oregonians knew:
wet and wetter.
Trail a muddy mire
with a break,
a sucker hole,
to light up the
small flowers of candy flower pink and white,
sparkling with open-petaled welcome.

See the tiny-bodied bees?
From one to the next they travel
gathering their sustenance.
You, too, can partake!
This whole plant is indeed sweet to eat:
a trailside tonic,
a salad celebration.
Cousin of miner’s lettuce:
he with piercing stem through circular leaf.
Candy flower:
the larger flowered,
the more flamboyant relative.
So many blooms
Yet they remain unseen, unknown, unappreciated.
Subtle you might say
but I debate no, they are grand!
They capture the moment.



The moment of aesthetic arrest:
sun streaming through rain wet limbs
lighting up the trailside sweep of candy flowers
here where Himalayan blackberries once grew,
a thicket, a dark tangle,
removed by the hand of park stewards.
Grateful for them.
As grateful as the wildflowers that greet the new day
with nectar-rich blooms.

Welling up:
an urge to share this,
to volunteer like this native plant does,
spreading it’s seeds,
sewing life.
Candy flower, you’re the muse of engaged action
to add my hand to the stewardship of the land.

“…the good exists as a kind of seed
that needs to be tended more energetically
or propagated more wildly.”*



You weave and blanket
you cover bare ground
shouldering up with emergent Hooker’s fairy bells,
and false Solomon’s seal
and fringe cup.
You grow on the northeast
and the northwest flanks of the butte,
in shade but not the deepest
on the true north where waterleaf takes up the role
of ground cover
of matrix
of the one that fills the gaps.

I looked once online
and through local contacts for your seed,
for a small plant to place in a garden.
All I found was deer fern potted from the wild
near a nursery that came with you as a hitchhiker,
a bonus.
You were planted with the hopes you’d spread.
Like you do at Hendrick’s Park,
like you do on Skinner’s Butte,
like you do at William L. Finley and
all around the Pacific Northwest wild lands.



Why are you little known?
Why are you littler grown?
You could be forget-me-nots
in the garden
but better
for bees,
for snacking.
Not mildewed like the blue
thing that we do not forget.
Candy flower,
you are unforgettable!

I’ll endeavor
to respectfully collect your seeds
and sew them in every garden I enter,
to spread your sweetness,
the gift of your fall sprouting,
your emergence like a farm cover crop
of freshest green rosette,
of winter blanketing,
of spring long blooming
then fading dormant in summer’s dryness.

Let May recognize
candy flower.




*Rebecca Solnit in “Orwell’s Roses”

One comment on “May Muse – candy flower”

  1. Mary says:

    That was another great piece! Poetic and purposeful.. you are a talented woman!

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