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.


About redmitten

author of Cracking Geodes Open, Making Good Use of August, and The Peppermint Bottle. poetry editor for IthacaLit. website: https://toomuchaugust.wordpress.com

12 responses to “vocabulary

  1. What a friendship! I want one like that.

    • redmitten

      i am glad you saw the friendship here as rare. it is. she is. and we keep learning new words, but i keep wearing my hiking boots. 🙂

  2. “Juxtaposition” is a good vocabulary word!

  3. Your debate with your friend re: how to photograph and what makes a good photo is EXACTLY like the debates I have with my husband. I want my birds in dynamic shots in their environments and he wants shots that show what they look like. As though they’ve been shot and stuffed. Although I do understand the shoes. Friendship is like a quilt patched together with pieces that have been gathered from myriad sources. And only the friends can understand how and why they fit.

    • redmitten

      laurie- yes, to lift something out of the setting takes away a good portion of what made that moment, that “thing.” the poetry goes away. and yes to friendships–so much history shared adds stitches to the quilt. i need to get over to your blog and catch up on your napo! april has been a hard month (excuses, excuses . . .)

  4. Beauty in the dying stalks is a favorite thing of mine…the curled up fists of the dead flower heads hanging onto seeds for spring. Your story of friendship is a thing of beauty as well. Sometimes the words just have to wait.

  5. Katy

    Sherry I grew up in OH and Queen Anne’s Lace was everywhere – at least that’s what we called it – it looked like this:

    and deep friendship is always rare. The kind that endures all things & the march of time. Not everyone seeks that kind of friendship – some are content with multitudes of friends who are somewhat transient and absent, it’s like a flock of butterflies vs. a pair of oak trees.
    I think I am an oak tree, not a butterfly.

  6. I love it when I need to tramp through something/wade/lie in dirt/ – something, to get a photo. Such a good experience! I have bad knees also and they creak around when I’m kneeling down or on my knees etc. It’s like, ugh, ow, but I like it. I think it’s like being at one with the shot, you follow where it says. I think I’ve heard photographers say that. It’s like a trance! People think you are nuts though, but they think that anyway–. ! What? That flower/piece of pipe/etc., is not on the list of attractions/recognized things of photo-worthy merit, like sunsets. Wha! Etc. Scandal! The looks! Back to the topic–
    …I would be with you, wading, of course…but it’s nice there are those of us by the side of the road also eh.
    [+ *always wear sneakers*] 🙂
    [+ I love this pic.]

    • redmitten

      rose- what a gorgeous response. and title to your first collection of photos: not on the list of attractions. you would be really something to accompany in a photoshoot and vice versa. i wish i had your camera and you wish you had something more. but we both wear appropriate shoes for the situation and both our knees creak. so see, we are muy together. and heh….that picture. almost was a cover to a book one time . . . 🙂

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