A Roll in the Hay

Today’s post comes from Clyde in Mankato.

I know, I was an English teacher and all that, but I am really far more visually oriented than word-oriented. I opened at random a book called The Prairie World by David F. Costello. I read this description, and until I came to the key words, which I have left blank below, I had no idea what plant he was describing:

If you examine a stem closely, you will see that the leaves alternate in opposite directions from the stem, and only one leaf grows from the node. The leaf itself consists of two parts: the sheath which forms tube around the stem, and is split its full length; and the blade, which is wide and often flat but nearly always elongated. The portion of the leaf at the junction of the blade and sheath is called the collar. The mebranous or hairy structures where the base of the blade touches the stem is called the ligule. This structure, which varies greatly among different _____s, is useful in their identification. It keeps water from flowing inside the sheath where fungi might grow. Some _____s have appendages, one on either side of the base of the blade, known as auricles . . . As the ______ continues its seasonal growth it produces new stems from buds that develop from old stem bases near the surface of the ground . . .”

Do you recognize that plant? We all know it well. But we seldom look at it at such close range. I had a colleague who taught biology who tried to get students to notice, to look, to see at both the close range and the larger picture; to see patterns, to see differences and similarities and to relish the wonder of nature. I tired to teach essentially the same thing about reading and literature.

Costello is describing grass. Just grass, grown taller than we let it grow in our cultured yards. The technical jargon does not help, it never does, except to the those in the inner circle of the world circumscribed by the given jargon.  But since every June of my childhood was driven by a high concern for grass, or hay as farmers call it in full form, I should recognize it by any description. I used to lie in it, just to relax in the sun, to rest with my dog by my side, to look up at the clouds drifting across the sky on their way to Lake Superior.

Somehow I did not Mowingroll over and look carefully at the intricacy of a single plant of grass. In the larger picture, driven by the daily details, a biology teacher and an English teacher are teaching many of the same skills.

Praises be for the small and simple yet wonder-filled things which sustain us heart, body, and soul.

Are you a good looker?

45 thoughts on “A Roll in the Hay”

  1. Well, I am a pretty good looker, given my profession. I also think anyone who has animals has to be a good looker.

    I think I told this once before. An acquaintance of my dad, a contemporary of my grandfather, was a horse dealer. Johnny bought a horse from a German-accented farmer, and when he got it home, the horse proceeded to walk into the wall of the barn. It was blind and Johnny hadn’ noticed. He took the horse back to the farmer and challenged him for not revealing this rather import information about the horse. The farmer protested “I did tell you! I told you he didn’t look so good”.

    Liked by 4 people

  2. Depends. I ‘d say I’ve made at least fifteen trips to the Wildlife Rehab Center with orphaned or injured critters, and there were many more I couldn’t catch or deemed likely to survive on their own. I must have a pretty good eye for wildlife. On the other hand, I’m pretty bad at recognizing friends’ new haircuts, or noticing if they’ve lost weight.


  3. Either everyone’s still asleep, or I just can’t see the other posts.

    I am a good looker. I figured out what plant was being described in that quote by the time we got to the ligule–maybe because I’ve spent enough time pulling grass out of the garden to have plenty of opportunity to observe how those stems are assembled! I’ve always had a close focus, which helps not only in the data entry work I make my living at, but in research, in editing, and even in the crafts I’m most interested in.

    The one time it trips me up is in my own writing–I spend FAR too much effort on getting the descriptions and individual words exactly right, and make only minuscule progress into the plot (seriously, a full paragraph is a good day’s work for me). Too often I run out of energy and end up with another UFO (UnFinished Object, for you non-crafters out there). During my half-an-MFA they tried to teach us to write fast. loose, and messy, then tighten afterwards, and I was simply unable to do it. It also means that if my storyline gets badly off track, it’s really hard, sometimes impossible, to find the right spot to lever it back into the correct alignment. There was a reason I started writing poetry…

    Liked by 3 people

  4. I’m getting better
    the ability to notice the things around you has been a strong suit for me but there are certainly times I am distracted by the surrounding circumstances. reminds me of the basketball study


  5. No there wasn’t a Comment click field on the email today. I had to type in the URL to get here. I am detail-oriented for words on page and things I have interest in. But generally, I don’t notice much detail in the world unless it’s close to me. It seems to follow that my eyesight is extremely myopic.

    Yes, thank you VS! I did receive my 2nd Degree Black Belt on Saturday. Maybe I should do a blog post about it, eh?

    Liked by 5 people

  6. Good morning. I knew that the plant described was grass because my work as a crop consultant included identifying grasses. I am a good looker if you need your crops checked for weeds, pests, diseases, and other things. I’m no better than anyone else at doing other kinds of looking. In fact I have been know to miss seeing some things others see. I would say I am not generally outstanding as a looker. However, I am outstanding at looking when I am out standing in a field filled with crops.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Morning all. I would not have guessed grass unless I went online and looked up all of Clyde’s terminology. Part of this is that I clearly haven’t ever looked at a blade of grass that closely and part is because with all our garden talk this summer, my brain went right to “flower”.

    I have a hit or miss track record. I tend to see actions more clearly than things.


  8. Morning–

    Well I’ve told you the story of missing the naked lady next to the naked guy so I guess it just depends what I’m supposed to be looking for.

    Thank you Clyde.
    Crops really are fascinating. I don’t know as much as I should about all the parts of a soybean or corn plant as they’re emerging and growing.
    I pay more attention to the technical aspects of live events than most.

    Was fun to watch the moon and eclipse last night.

    It really annoys me when i miss the obvious.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. While I’m generally a “big picture” person, depending on what it is, I can be a good looker. I can also be completely oblivious.

    In Clyde’s blog above, I took my clues from both the title of the blog as well as the book “The Prairie World,” and guessed grass. Botany has always interested me, so I generally pay close attention to plants of all kinds.

    I’ve been known not to notice that a mustache or a beard that had been shaved off, or new glasses. In fact, I’m wondering, without consulting photos, how many baboons could accurately say which baboons wear glasses, and who do not?


  10. Our terrier is deaf, a fairly recent development. I noticed that neither of our two Welshies were real visual dogs. I suppose they are bred more for listening for vermin in holes and underground, and often would miss the obvious right in front of them. I also suppose it is hard to see with those bushy eyebrows. Now that she is deaf, she has become much more visual, relying on visual cues far more than she ever did. I imagine it is stressful for her, but she seems her usual joyful self. She is slightly more anxious than she was before.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. I do my best looking at animals, especially their heads/faces. When I was watercolor painting them, I often skipped the body and focused only on their heads, especially eyes. And perhaps it is because of the animals I did guess that Clyde was talking about grass before the end. I used to spend hours watching my goats and horses. Just watching. But I’m not so good at seeing movement.

    I took a college photography class one summer, the first assignment was to describe in words something we were looking closely at. I failed to be precise enough for the instructor to know what it was I was describing, but got a positive comment about my use of language.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. I did see the gorilla but didn’t bother counting the number of passes the people in white made….didn’t even try. So was able to see the gorilla in the “Selective Attention” or “Monkey Business” videos. Guess I don’t follow directions very well…


        1. I’ll admit to not seeing the gorilla the very first time I saw this video – couple of years back when it made its first appearance I believe. But I sure as heck knew how many passes the folks in white had made!

          Liked by 1 person

  13. I never see celebrities. I was in a liquor store in Aspen CO with Rock Hudson and never saw him. (My friend said he was looking at me…but on retrospect I suspect he was really looking at my good-looking male friend.) Jessica Lange was in a small natural foods store in Cloquet and I had to be told she was there…I was too busy talking and watching one of her (beautiful) young daughters. She is often at the Carlton County Fair and visits the log cabin where I volunteer, but I never notice her and am always told afterwards that she had been there. Duh…but I do notice children.

    Liked by 2 people

  14. I am told in “the business” that I have a “good eye”. I suspect that comes from years of watching excellent designers in action, adding an accent, changing a proportion to make everything just right.

    I also notice more than is comfortable sometimes. Like any other acute awareness, you learn to just not look at some things.

    I’d like to hope it somewhat compensates for my sorry lack in the original vision department.

    Figured Clyde’s description as grass of some sort. Palms grow sort of like that too.


  15. My son texted me over lunch today to express some frustration that his office phone wasn’t cooperating and letting him know when he had voice mail. I texted back saying that maybe it was a job for SDSU’s IT department. I didn’t look carefully enough when I sent the text and didn’t notice that the autocorrect had changed IT to Italian. Son was much puzzled. I replied that you never know, maybe the Italian department could help.

    Liked by 2 people

  16. i cant reqad those descriptions. when i got to the end and you told me i said yep thats right. i have chewed on lots of grass and in pulling it out to chew i notice all the mentioned attributes but working it backwards is not my strong suit.
    now where is the right place to chill out. i could tell you. where is the spot where the dogs like to plant themselves or the fidh hide out. i can tell you but the anatomy of a dna is not my cup of tea.


  17. A couple of days ago, I responded to a post from Steve on the trail. The one where he claimed to not having developed any conflict resolution skills in his marriage because they never had any conflicts.

    I hurt Steve’s feeling with my “harsh” response, and I want to publicly apologize. It was not my intent to hurt Steve’s feelings. On the other hand, you don’t get a divorce if there’s been no conflict. I’d say that unresolved conflict pretty much features in most – if not every divorce. But no doubt about it, I could have stated that in a kinder, gentler way, and I should have. Steve, I’m sorry.

    Liked by 2 people

  18. I completely ignored the title and the pictures and went to Venus Flytrap or Jack in the Pulpit because of the “hairy structures” and “keeps water from flowing inside the sheath”. It made no sense that Clyde would be talking about forest plants but that’s where I went anyway.
    Re-reading and thinking about grass, I can see it.

    I’ve never had a feeling one way or the other about my looking skills. I will take a stab at the who-wears-glasses for the Baboons I know and say that Sherrilee, Linda, BiR, Anna, ljb, Jacque, HVS, Krista, Jim and PJ do NOT (except, perhaps, for reading) and that tim, Ben and I do.
    I’m guessing I’m wrong because there can’t be that many people with good vision!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I think ljb and Jacque do, but it has been so long since I’ve seen anybody, I’m probably wrong.

      For the record, I do, but usually take them off to read/knit/sew.


    2. Well, at least for me, you’re wrong on the glasses, Lisa. I’m pretty sure ljb wears rim-less glasses, and I have a vision, in my mind’s eye, of both Krista and Barb wearing wire-rim glasses.

      I do find it interesting, though, that even when we know our intuition is wrong, we apparently perceive people as a whole, and unless the glasses really stand out – for whatever reason – we don’t notice them.


    3. You got me right. I can’t see nothing without my glasses.
      These darn trifocals though are messing me up. Lying under a platform today trying to screw a leg on and I couldn’t get anything in focus. Grrrr….

      Liked by 2 people

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