Wild Plums

The wild plums are in bloom on the banks of Plum Creek, the Plum Creek of the “Laura & Mary” stories by Laura Ingalls Wilder. Stories that were special to mom; she knew those places, the prairie in all its moods. Plum creek flows only a few miles from the farms she knew as a child. The plums grow in impenetrable, spiny thickets of popcorn flowers. Wildlife biologists refer to the fruit as Soft mast. Summer food for the turkeys and prairie chickens and humans. The essence of hope: to know what will be with the security of remembering what has been. Plum jam in jars, to spread on homemade bread toast. Summer, sun-warmed fruit for those December days when we are certain that summer will never come again. Summer has been; Summer will be. The wind blows as it [always] does on the prairie. The grass floats like nap on velvet, the illusion of a green sea coming to life after the killing frosts of winter. The full moon casts its silvery light. The Des Moines flows, languid and murky playing hide and seek with the moon among the arching maples. With a glint and a wink, the river reflects the captured moonlight.


Dawn begins its dress rehearsal far offstage, offering first a hint of salmon pink to the cirrus near the horizon. The sky is big here, perhaps only because I’ve lived with the hill and forest constricted horizons of the east for too long. Dawn comes early. Like the river, not in a hurry to arrive. The eastern brightening is inexorable. Salmon is heated to orange, then with a blast of orange light, the sun comes onstage coating everything in glory. The robins and jays have been telling us for an hour, prophets of the new day, that it was coming. We cursed their racket. Let us sleep in ignorance, we said and pulled the pillow over our heads.


A hawk rests mundanely on a post. A fish hawk, at that. HiAs white head fastened to a swivel just above his shoulders. Such was my first sighting of a bald eagle not in a zoo. Our national bird. Hardly majestic. Come on, damn you. Soar! Play the part legend has assigned you. He refused to acknowledge my imprecations. His work order said sit on a post. Wait for a vole. Or a pocket gopher. Such is lunch. I had no authority where he came from. Life goes on above and below.


Just as a curve is straight if you break it into small enough segments, life, this novel we live, is composed of the minutia, the mundane, the insignificant. Breathe and savor the morning air with the scent of dew and freshly tilled soil on it. Nod to the bullheads with their catfish whiskers. Smile to the plums in their wedding attire. Accept the hawk. We are surrounded by miracles. We need only pay attention to those prophets who try with such vehemence to awaken us.

3 thoughts on “Wild Plums

    1. martinmelville Post author

      Thanks for your kind words, Gordo. On the one hand, I tell ’em like I see ’em. On the other hand, the ability to string words together in a certain way is indeed a gift… and we all are aware of the origin of gifts.
      I did Sunday school for the 2-5 graders in Feb. Moses was one class. I found a new favorite verse: Exod. 4:12: “Now go, and I will be with your mouth and teach you what you are to speak.” We need only to allow it to be so.
      Peace, friend.

  1. Gordon jenness

    I’ve typed it before; I’ll type it again – what an incredible gift you have for writing! I feel like I am living in a Norman Rockwell painting when I read your stories! “Back to Iowa” makes me feel like I’ve lived there myself, even though I only passed through the state once in the summer of 1977. Love to read about your perspective of our great Lord’s wonderful creation! Keep writing as He leads you, my friend!


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