Brazos River backwaters flowing into a culvert along Cow Creek Road ~ Brazoria County
It’s rare for sights along a Texas country road to evoke memories of Louisiana dancehalls, the simple pleasures of Atchafalaya nights, or Rodney Crowell’s perfect lyrics, but these ‘stars’ did just that. Unfortunately, my favorite Angelle’s Whiskey River Landing is closed, but music still flows ‘down da bayou,’ and the dancers still sparkle.
Down in Louisiana, bayous by and by A pirogue pole or your natural soul Keeps you tied to a tree high tide Beer joint lights come on And then the crowd starts rollin’ in ~
Pretty soon you got stars on the water Feels just like stars on the water You got stars on the water when it rains…
When I found this so-called horrid thistle (Cirsium horridulum) in a pasture down the road, only three disc florets had begun to emerge. It looked so much like a birthday cake with candles that I decided to save the photo for just the right occasion.
Yesterday, that occasion arrived; it was Willie Nelson’s birthday. But we’re not late to the party, since Willie claims today as his birthday, too. Despite being born on April 29 — 88 years ago, now — the Abbott, Texas county courthouse didn’t record his just-before-midnight birth until the next morning, making April 30 his second birthday. At least that’s Willie’s story, and he’s sticking to it.
This thistle is the perfect birthday flower for a character like Willie. It’s a Texas native, prickly around the edges, but with a pink or yellow flower as soft and sweet as his heart. The bees may seem to be overindulging in its pollen from time to time, but they know how to party: just like Willie and Waylon and the boys.
Everyone changes over time, and Willie’s no exception. The ‘Outlaw’ country sound of the ’70s and ’80s may have become the more reflective tunes of today, but it’s still Willie singing, and there’s nothing horrid about that.
Part of the Lamiaceae, or mint family, lyre-leaf sage grows from a small basal rosette of dark green leaves. Oval and somewhat hairy, the leaves eventually develop purple stems, edges, and veins, as well as deep lobes suggesting the shape of the musical instrument known as the lyre. In 1753, that resemblance led Swedish botanist Carl Linnaeus to name the plant Salvia lyrata.
The plant also develops square, hairy stalks from one to three feet tall. Essentially leafless, the stalks fill with buds which go on to bloom from the bottom to the top, attracting a wide range of bees and butterflies with their nectar. Sometimes a single plant produces multiple stems, and while the stems aren’t framed by the leaves, it still can be fun to imagine them as the ‘strings’ of a lyre.
Last week, when I found this plant along a roadside near Santa Fe, Texas, the curved and visually pleasing stem also suggested a plucked lyre string; it reminded me of The Epitaph of Seikilos — the oldest complete musical composition in existence.
Engraved on a stele (or gravestone) almost two millennia ago in the town of Tralles, near modern-day Aydin in Turkey, it is signed from Seikilos to Euterpe, who may have been his wife. Discovered in 1883, the stele passed from hand to hand for years, until it was reclaimed from an owner who was using it as a pedestal for a flower pot. Today, it resides in theNational Museum of Denmark.
Signs and symbols included on the stele indicate the melody, which musicologists have transcribed into modern notation. Here, one translation of the words, combined with the sound of the lyre, recall love’s flowering.
While you’re alive, shine; never let your mood decline. We’ve a brief span of life to spend; Time necessitates an end.