Glory on the Edge of a Gravel Pit by Rita Smith

One morning at work I was told about a spot in rural Steuben County where there was a patch of common boneset (Eupatorium perfoliatum). The seed heads from this wetland plant were needed for a project and we needed) as much as we possibly could find.” With directions from Phillip about the location of this plant, I began my solo adventure.


Driving west on County Road 100 North, I arrived at Angola Sand and Gravel. I needed to obtain permission to collect the seed at the property so I stopped at the office and asked. I told them that Blue Heron Ministries was my employer and that there was a property in LaGrange County that was being restored which is why I was directed to collect this seed. Morgan called Stuart who was back at the pint in a, might I say, VERY LARGE VEHICLE! He drove up to the office and talked to me and agreed it would be fine for me to collect the seed. He escorted me back to the lake which is where the plant was growing. I followed him in my vehicle, and once I parked, I let him know if I found the plant that I would probably be collecting into the afternoon hours. He was fine with that and let me know that it would be good if I stopped at the office to let Morgan know that I had exited the area. He also asked for a sample of the plant so he could see what it looked like.


This is what I shared with them about the plant: Boneset is a plant of wetland areas and grows anywhere from two to five feet. The flowers grow in small heads forming flat clusters and are white in color. Its stem and leaves are hairy and its leaves are opposite on the stem. Early pioneers took this as a sign and used a poultice from the plants leaves for people who had broken bones thinking it would help their bones ‘grow back together.’ Hence the name, “boneset.”


As I looked off in the distance, the first thing I saw and heard were four wood ducks flying from Grass Lake at the edge of the gravel pit. I also saw two kingfishers flying low over the water in search of food. Off to the south were sand hill cranes calling, not to mention geese resting on the water. What a great start to my day!


I walked slowly down a slight hill and picked my way over grapefruit sized stone. Shielding my eyes from the sun and searching, I finally noticed the boneset. I set down my bucket and began to pick. I looked around and knew I would be here for awhile and I didn’t care because all around me was nature; a lake, trees, plants, birds, sunny skies, and warm temperatures. This is my job for the day? I’ll take it- no problem.


During the course of my day, I noticed many things that made me smile as I collected the seed of boneset. I continued to see a pair of kingfishers scouring Grass Lake in search of food. As they flew from their perch they made a rattling sound, which is typical, and then hovered over the water investigating any movement below the water. If they saw fish swimming, they dove to snatch the fish and flew back to their perch to consume it. What a show I was seeing!


The longer I stood in this area gathering seed, the more I enjoyed the experience. I looked out at the lake and it almost seemed like a beach because the mud flats made my mind’s eye picture a sandy beach. Therefore, my lunch became a picnic lunch at the beach as I sat on the ground enjoying the sun, breeze, and birds singing sweetly. The other sweet sound I heard were frogs. I had sat for about thirty quiet minutes eating my lunch and upon standing, the frogs who had been lounging right at the edge of the water of the mud flats, chirped and jumped… back into the water! It wasn’t just one or two frogs jumping back in, but at least half a dozen. And as I bent down to pick my bucket back up for my work, more sounded off and splashed back in. Such fun!


Of course, moving around looking for seed isn’t the only time surprises are found. Standing still and just looking while moving one’s eyes is also rewarding. In fact, one time I spotted a common buckeye butterfly, so subtle the main color of the inner portion of wing and body but so startling the spots on the outer wing edges. These eye spots are a clue for its predators! The wonders of nature if only quiet and attentive for its observance.


This day of wonders had not been anticipated at 8:30 am when I began my journey to this gravel pit. I had only been thinking of strapping a bucket to my waist to collect many dried flower heads for later use. The natural glory I was greeted with and enjoyed for several hours will always be in my memory and I will always think back to my picnic at the beach.

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