Queen Anne’s Lace showed up in my vocabulary one weekend because I stopped to take photos in the forest near Roscoe. I parked my truck in the middle of the narrow road — the sort of road with weeds growing between tire tracks. I got out, but Judy with new shoes on didn’t. I wasn’t sure why she came on this road trip. My idea of getting away doesn’t include shoe shopping; too late I learned that hers did.
I’d been taking photos of yellow flowers on four-foot-high stalks, each slender petal hanging on as if for one more shot. Judy said if her mother were here she’d tell us these were black-eyed susans, except for her mother is in an old folks center back home. If my grandma were here she would say they were forgettable daisies but she wasn’t here either. Gramma passed away thirteen years ago. Judy has a book of flowers she likes to look at when she’s in the bathroom, but the flowers are for the Pacific Northwest, not Montana.
Putting a name to something is part of every good experience. Next up, we wanted the name for the dried, light-brown stalks clumped off to the right, in a meadow of hard marsh.
Queen Anne’s Lace, Judy guessed. I wasn’t sure. The idea of Queen Anne being in the shadow of the Beartooth-Absaroka Wilderness bewildered me. But the thing is (and this has nothing to do with adding to my vocabulary now): I waded into the field, grass as high as my chest. I wanted photos of these dried blooms on tall stalks. Judy stood at the side of the road, on a rock, trying to tell me she had an easier way to get a photo of the lace. I took my shots and didn’t listen, slowly working my way back to her. She waited for me to return, then grabbed the stalk of lace closest to the road and pulled it towards her, turning its face such that I could photograph it.
See, she said, this way you don’t get your shoes dirty.
Her shot of the lace was a document as to what the lace looks like. But the photos I wanted shot the lace in contrast to its surroundings. Juxtaposition, I told her.
She’s baffled by my wanting to take photos. We have been friends forever (she helped me divorce my husband, I stood with her when she buried her son.) Our friendship is outspoken.
I told Judy she has no sense of beauty. And when I said beauty, I was at a loss for the right word. My vocabulary needs a few more road trips. She saw the lace for what it is, I saw it for what it does, what it offers to its surroundings. We climbed back in my truck. I knew we’d stop in Red Lodge and go shoe shopping; she knew we’d drive back again one day to learn a few more words.