Site icon Margaret Coombs

Spirit of the Rivers

I visited Aurora Hospital to see my mother, who had been admitted to the emergency room. They turned me away due to COVID-19 guidelines. Not yet ready to return home, I visited the Wayside near the Spirit of the Rivers statue, across Memorial Drive from the hospital.

The statue of three Native Americans preparing to portage their canoe stands where Forget-Me-Not Creek meets Lake Michigan. There’s a pretty tale about a settler’s wife who planted Forget-me-nots next to the creek and that became its identity. I wonder about the species she planted: Myosotis laxa–Smaller Forget-me-not, spindly, native, and small? Or Myosotis scorpioides, the True Forget-me-not, brought over from Europe?  
Knowing what I know about nostalgia for the geography of a place left behind, I’m inclined toward the latter. The True species is a sweet blue spring bloom. But innocent decisions such as this led to the land we see today: disturbed, invaded, colonized. I have no idea what the lakeshore might have looked like three hundred years ago. I am sure it must have been astonishingly beautiful. After all, these are the Great Lakes. 
At least one recent land-use decision lifted my spirits: a sign indicated that the property around the statue had been cleared of invasive visitors and replaced with native plants. I saw numerous bumblebees, at least one monarch, and two black swallowtails enjoy the red clover. 
Back at home, I looked up the plants I photographed. Apparently, I stood in the wrong spot. Red clover is another European import, though the insects had no complaints.
I seek to know the land as it once was. Barring that, I seek clues about its character. Its changes occurred in stages and perhaps at least I can uncover the most recent. I’m no expert. A beginner student, I’ll be easily misled, slow to learn, and insecure about my discoveries. And yet, a beautiful path awaits. 
Campion (White or Bladder, not sure which)
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