“Welcome back. With the exception of the thistle and the Indian paintbrush (perhaps), I don’t think you’ll find these around Houston.”
He’s right. Northerners envision Texas as a vast desert interrupted by oil wells and cowboys, but climates within the state range from subtropical to arid. Indian paintbrushes I haven’t seen since my return but thistles are common. I saw hundreds growing along a railroad spur, near a crossing where day laborers collect to wait for farm work. Cynthia Haven reminds us Thursday was the centenary of the birth of Czesław Miłosz, which reminds me of “The Thistle, the Nettle” (translated by Miłosz and Robert Hass, Selected Poems 1931-2004):
“The thistle, the nettle, the burdock, and belladonna
Have a future. Theirs are wastelands
And rusty railroad tracks, the sky, silence.
“Who shall I be for men many generations later?
When, after the clamor of tongues, the award goes to silence?
“I was to be redeemed by the gift of arranging words
But must be prepared for an earth without a grammar,
“For the thistle, the nettle, the burdock, and the belladonna,
And a small wind above them, a sleepy cloud, silence.”
As I write Thursday evening, the sun is low and blinding, and the temperature in the backyard is one-hundred degrees. Mourning doves call from the live oak, “And a small wind above them, a sleepy cloud, silence.”