This Thistle


This morning was wet, warm, soft, and gray.
I parked in the lot adjacent to the torn-down buildings and climbed out of the car with my purse, lunch bag, and iPad bag slung over my shoulder and across my chest. My iPhone was nested in the back pocket of my jeans, earbuds plugged in and stuck in my ears.

I began my walk to the CIB (IU’s Cyber Infrastructure Building), the place I work. I stepped from pavement, to grass, to concrete, to the dirt that used to be under the recently demolished Wrubel Computing Center (a place that I used to work).

I saw this dying thistle in the tall native grass that adorns the sides of the Data Center building. It was standing solitary among its browning surroundings.

I don’t know if this thistle was planted intentionally by an IU groundskeeper, or is the product of some wayward seed. Perhaps a bird, hoping to contribute to the landscape, brought this thistle here.

In any case, I saw it and was beguiled by its strange beauty. I say strange because this thistle’s beauty was not conventional. It appears to be dying, breathing its last few breaths of the summer. We’re not supposed to see beauty in death, but isn’t death a part of the cycle of life that we claim is so beautiful?

So I stopped and took some iPhone photos. For the first, I was standing too close. I edged closer and snapped another. I tried two more from different angles. The second shot, the best shot, is the one you see here. I think that the grayness of the morning enhanced the purple; or is it lavender or some other color?

The photo doesn’t begin to do the thistle justice. Seeing it with my own eyes evoked emotion, brought me closer to the infinite. Yes, I really do believe that. But the photo is all I have. My memory of those moments I spent looking at this thistle are fading. They fade with every passing second.

Tomorrow, this source of enchantment will be different. I may take a different path so as not to see it and face disappointment. I may pass it again and find it to be even more beautiful. I may encounter a new source of enchantment to photograph. Or I may walk all the way to the CIB with my head down, carefully watching my steps so as not to get tripped by those ever changing surfaces.

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