The Talisman


“The wildflowers are blooming in Montana.  I miss you.”

That line comes from a poem I wrote in college, for my Beau, who was still living in Alabama with his parents at the time.  We were dating, not yet engaged, and I missed him desperately.

The title object of the poem — “The Talisman” — was my favorite wildflower, the scarlet globemallow.  A talisman, according to Webster, is an object (typically an inscribed ring or stone) which is thought to have magical powers and to bring its possessor good luck.  The poem describes how I harvested the first scarlet globemallow of spring and mailed it to Beau in Alabama with love.

I’m pretty sure I had just learned the world “talisman” when I wrote the poem and was anxious to put it to good use.  It’s like dribbling between your legs — once you learn how, you can’t help but test it out in an important game.  Hey, I was in college.  Young love and all that.

Even so, scarlet globemallows are special for us even today.  We cut and dried bushels of them the spring that we were married and used them in decorations for our wedding.  And this year, as every year, Beau brought home to me the first scarlet globemallow he found growing out in the hills.

Scarlet globemallows are diminutive and fragile and short-lived.  Not many wildflowers are brave enough to grow on this short-grass, hard-pan, gumbo prairie where we live.  But at least a few scarlet globemallows are sure to survive the winter and emerge victorious — a tiny thing of beauty in a huge, unlikely landscape — at the end of May.  I like their sunny tangerine color contrasted by the fuzzy sage green of their leaves.  I like to put them in mason jars and bring them inside, where they’ll stand proud for only a day or two.

I learned about scarlet globemallows — and many other plants — through five years of range management classes taken when I was in 4-H.  A fun, knowledgable, dedicated 4-H leader named Judy Knapp didn’t just lead me through the range management workbooks… instead, she helped me build a plant press and then climbed many a hill with me, wielding a shovel as we searched out significant plants for my collection.

At one time, then, I was quite an expert on the plants of Montana rangelands.  But as happens, much of that information has now slipped away through lack of exercise… and now I can only hope I’ll get the chance to relearn it all (if I can talk my kids into taking the 4-H range management project here in a few years.  Who knows?  Maybe they won’t have a choice).

I’ve never forgotten the scarlet globemallow, though.  It renews itself for me every year, and finding it crouched down under a sagebrush as though it’s been waiting for me to find it is always a delight.  A talisman?  Nah… I don’t exactly believe in magical powers or that it brings me good luck…

But then again, maybe it does.

© Tami Blake

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