May 8, 2014 

It began yesterday morning as I reached the top of Stroke Hill on Stanka Lane, a splotch of purple flower, and as I got closer, pushing aside the curtain of dangling inch worms and braving the onslaught  of maple seed boomerangs, I knew it was a purple iris, and there is nothing on earth as beautiful as an iris in a rain of maple seed, “iris” a Greek word meaning rainbow, and there tens of purple irises on that roadside spot, waiting for the signal to open, and you will find me there until the last petal falls.

Archaeologists search for irises in the woods, as those indicate where a cabin might have been. I once accompanied an archaeologist friend to a wood where he believed 19th century settlers may have lived. I could see the outline of the cabin; there were that many irises. My friend then tamped the ground with a steel pole, feeling for the old outhouse hole. Once he located it we began to dig with shovels. A few feet of packed earth later, we discovered discarded, hand-blown green glass bottles circa 1830. Most of the containers were imprinted with the word “Bitters,” which was popular drink back in the day, for what ailed one, and bitters was in fact alcohol.

There are three hundred species of iris. Look at the glorious iris paintings by the god Van Gogh, “Irises” itself, as well as many other paintings that show that most sensual of flowers, and feel the transformitive power of art. Van Gogh sends me; I think of him when I caress irises and gaze at sunflowers and wheat, when I watch stars: “The Starry Night.” Once, when I was young, I covered a naked MonticelloCollege girl with iris petals, petals on her nipples, on her mound of Venus, on her mouth, on her fluttering eyes, her body’s outline on the ground delineated by bit-off tops of strawberries, for we ate berries and drank Cokes laced with rum. Her name was Serendipity.

And on last night’s starry night, Scout the Cat and I sat in the dark and listened to a tree frog, who sounded like Leonard Cohen, and I stood and looked out onto the porch, and there on the left column of the aluminum-wrapped porch eave was a biscuit-shaped, vivid green lump, and I walked out and beheld a gorgeous tree frog with ruby eyes, her spidery fingertips like suction cups, clinging to the column and looking at me and staying calm, and I did not caress her, and I named her Iris.

And Scout watched her sister from the window.



About Eugene Jones Baldwin

I am a writer: non-fiction, fiction, journalism (Alton Telegraph), essays (The Genehouse Chronicles) and have a website: I've published a couple dozen short stories and had eleven plays produced. Current projects: "Brother of the Stones" (available on Kindle), a book of short stories; "The Faithful Husband of the Rain, short stories"; "A Black Soldier's Letters Home, WWII,;" "There is No Color in Justice," a commentary on racism; "Ratkillers," a new play. I am an avocational archaeologist and I take parts of my collection of several thousand Indian artifacts (personal finds) to schools, nature centers, libraries etc. and talk about the 20,000 year history of The First people in Illinois. (See link to website) I'm also a playwright (eleven plays produced), musician, historian (authority on the Underground Railroad in Illinois, the Tuskegee Airmen) and teacher.
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