An autumn surprise

Don't those blooming daisies know it's almost time for a killing frost?

I don't go walking in late autumn expecting to see flowers. Aside from an unobtrusive clump of asters, the vivid blue of a few chicory plants, and a late-season dandelion or two, there isn't much color amid the gradually browning grass.

So I was surprised one evening last November to come across a pair of oxeyes, looking as fresh as ... well, daisies. They rose in the matted grass of the pasture, and I was sure they had not been there days earlier when I'd walked the same territory. In fact, the only oxeyes I've regularly come across on our 80 acres nod in a small cluster amid the fenced off cedars during summer.

A knowledgeable wildflower aficionado assured me that it isn't uncommon for these daisies to bloom so late here in south-central Indiana. "Wildflowers Worth Knowing" lists their flowering season as May through November – further confirmation. But their appearance in November struck me as pointless. Had they opened just before their imminent doom?

The next day. I saw our cows gathered in that corner of the pasture and wondered if they'd dispatched the daisies. Sure enough, one plant had been nibbled back.

Yet its mate inexplicably rose from the grass with the same perfection of form it had displayed the day before. It seemed to gather in everything the fading day had to offer, holding the lingering light. I breathed a sigh of relief when the cows began their slow evening meander down to the creek, leaving the flower unmolested.

Pointless? Maybe. But so are the circling walks I love to take, the keeping of elderly cows we no longer milk, the resistance I always feel this time of year to the shortening of the days. I haven't been to that corner of the pasture for a couple of weeks. I've probably missed the oxeyes this year, but I'll check for them anyway. It's the kind of pointless exercise I seem to thrive on.

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