A prairie reminder: Patience

Six years ago, I prepared the soil and sowed the seeds for a native Iowa prairie. The seed mix I chose from Ion Exchange contained 37 different varieties of prairie wildflowers and grasses. I was so eager for my new prairie to take root and grow, I called Ion Exchange repeatedly to question one thing and another. Each time, I asked, “When? When will I see the flowers?”

Patience rewarded - Butterfly milkweed, 2014

Patience rewarded – Butterfly milkweed, 2014

Their counsel was that prairies take time. The man actually told me to go away for a couple of years. When I came back, the prairie would be there. I laughed, got the point, and stopped calling him.

As the years passed, I learned he was right. Prairies take time – and patience – something I’m remarkably short on. Each year, I identified the plants as they bloomed, marveling over each flower I hadn’t seen before and marking it off the master list. From Canada milkvetch to anise hyssop, dotted mint to rattlesnake master, New England aster to stiff goldenrod, the prairie flowers appeared. All except one. Butterfly milkweed.

I was so eager to spot butterfly milkweed. It’s the only prairie plant I know with an orange blossom. But it didn’t come. I speculated that the seed was not viable. Or maybe the prescribed burn we did at year four killed the seed. Or maybe it hadn’t been part of the mix at all.

Last year, I began to think about taking matters into my own hands and getting more of this particular seed to sow into the prairie. Time passed and I didn’t make the order. As winter turned toward spring, I thought of ordering¬† plant sets. I really wanted to see those orange blooms. But I didn’t get them ordered.

Then recently, as I walked by the prairie, a flash of orange caught my eye. I waded into the grass and there it was – butterfly milkweed! After all this time. As beautiful as I had thought it would be. And even more precious for the long wait.

Readers who have followed my journey with the prairie (search this blog for “prairie”) know I’ve taken many lessons from the prairie. One of them I apparently need to keep learning is to be patient. I may want what I want, when I want it, but if I am patient, the prairie offers up its beauty in its own time.¬†

What’s the life lesson you need to learn? And what reminds you?