Nature Photography

Needle-and-Thread Grass

Today, just a little love song for needle-and-thread grass, a grass so thin that it nearly vanishes when the light burns through it. Not for needle-and-thread grass a story of the wind. Not for her the lifting up and drifting this way and that and this way again like dandelion seeds catching photons of light on their wings and lifting up to the far hills. Not for her, this story of moving on:

Up Up and Away

To use an old word from Chinook Trade Jargon, Poh! This is not the Needle-and-Thread Grass way.

For needle-and-thread grass, the knitting of a soul into place, the never-moving-from-this-spot ever breath (poh!) of wind (poh!), and the way needle-and-thread grass lets it pour through herself, who has seeds so light the wind never catches them at all: she, daughter of the earth and mother of the earth again in her time.

Who is the Fairest of Them All?

Needle and thread grass is easy enough to see with a human eye, but for a camera, well, the human has to lie down on the ground and look up to the sky, and there she is, catching the morning.

There is a prairie of mixed porcupine grass and needle-and-thread grass in the high grasslands above Riske Creek in the Chilcotin, the only one like that in the world. The seeds of needle-and-thread grass have tails that curl when they dry. They catch on the long, swaying stems of the grass and hang there, so lightly, just touching the soil, until day by night by day, curling one way with the heat and another again with the cold, slowly, over weeks, they drill down into the soil until they are planted, while all this wind-blown stuff is just collecting against rocks and then being blown on to the next rock. This perfect dryland grass enchanted me fifty years ago, when our fathers’ orchards were beginning to replace it in the Similkameen Valley, yet it still hung on in scraps of wild land between them. It’s rare in the Okanagan (and the Similkameen) now, but in a few place it’s still holding out against the cheatgrass, and maybe, just maybe, when the great drought comes as it surely ill and there is no fall water for the cheat grass, there will still be needle-and-thread grass on dusty slopes where the water drains away quickly and the sun burns like rain, and with her we can start again, in the dawn of the world.

A Community of Needle-and-Thread Grass at the End of Time …

and at its beginning.

That is the story I want to sing today. Enough of these stories of weeds.

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