A prairie reminder: Patience

By Carol / August 5, 2014 /

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?

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  1. Linda Hoye on August 5, 2014 at 8:36 am

    Love this, Carol. I can be impatient too often too and this is a perfect prairie reminder of the wisdom of waiting. The butterfly milkweed, in all of its orange splendor, is beautiful!

    • Carol Bodensteiner on August 5, 2014 at 9:01 am

      The prairie always has something to tell me if I slow down enough to listen. Thanks for stopping by, Linda.

  2. Paulette Mahurin on August 6, 2014 at 9:18 am

    The milkweed was waiting for your book to come out! <3

    • Carol Bodensteiner on August 6, 2014 at 9:26 am

      Now there’s a lovely thought. A new book; a new flower. I like it.

  3. Elfrieda Schroeder on August 6, 2014 at 11:29 am

    Our son-in-law, Chris Friesen, an endangered species biologist did a Masters Thesis on the Western Prairie Fringed Orchid, which is an endangered species that grows in only a very small area of the Manitoba Prairies and in some parts of the US. Have you ever come across it? My son-in-law has taught me to look very carefully for tiny beautiful things in the prairie grass. The butterfly milkweed is gorgeous.

    • Carol Bodensteiner on August 6, 2014 at 1:54 pm

      I have not seen the Western Prairie Fringed Orchid. I looked it up just now and it’s a lovely flower. The maps show Iowa wetlands as prime territory. Since my prairie is really dry, I’ll have to look for the orchid when I get to wetter areas.

      To slow down and look carefully is another of the lessons my prairie has taught me, as your son-in-law has taught you, Elfrieda. The big, showy yellow flowers grab our attention, so it’s easy to overlook the tiny flowers and quieter lilac, pink, and blue colors. There’s always something to see in the prairie, if we take time to look.

  4. Sherrey Meyer on August 19, 2014 at 10:58 pm

    Carol, as you can tell, I am woefully behind on blog reading. When I saw the word “patience” in this post title, I knew it was meant for me. My patience is often so lacking and yesterday was one of those days. I wasn’t waiting impatiently for butterfly milkweed. I was waiting for my husband to get a move on at the grocery store. He was shopping like he’d never been there before, and he had! Pretty soon my impatience gave way to frustration and then his mood was affected, and our day went sour. Like you, I need to grow in my patience abundantly. Perhaps I can find some seed to take care of my problem. 🙂 Thanks for a thought provoking post.

    • Carol Bodensteiner on August 20, 2014 at 10:12 am

      Ah, Sherrey, my friend. What you write could just as easily be me. My impatience often spills out in unpleasant ways on those closest to me. And it’s not pretty. We just keep trying to do better – and thank your lucky stars that we have people who love us in spite of our shortcomings.

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