Native Son: The Beast

1:53am … the beast emits a low, guttural growl, enough to rouse me from a peaceful slumber into a blind panic. I stumble down the pitch-black hallway into the dim light of the kitchen. Frozen now, I survey my surroundings in dead silence … dishes in the sink, slow-simmering crock pot, a dust bunny. A small moth stirs, making a few dips over the stove before heading back up to the light bulb in the vent. A little snort from the living room makes me relax; perhaps it was just a dog snoring for a moment. I lift the lid off the simmering crock pot: the fragrance is heavenly, but am reminded that life itself is fleeting … for all of us … as I stir the chicken bones there.

Another deep growl rolls in from the den. Perhaps it caught a whiff of the bubbling chicken stock. Perhaps it sensed I was up and about. Perhaps it was just hungry for a taste of my still-beating heart.

Foolishly, I find my feet moving … hypnotically drawn toward a dim light in the den, like that hapless moth over the stove. I see the beast there, staring at me like a hungry wolf…

Yep, there’s nothing like an empty page. Gleaming white blankness laughs at me, taunts me, mocks me … “Who are you to think you are worthy to write something worth reading? Who are you to think you won’t prove yourself a fool to the world?” I’ve been writing for public eyes for almost thirty years, and it’s the same every time. And every time, all it takes is a few sentences to send him packing.

Everyone has a beast … something that looms in their mind, ridiculing their abilities, their efforts. Whatever it is, a little action will send it on its way.


Things I Love To Love In Autumn
Cold and rainy, just outside,
Find a warm place you can hide.
For soon enough the sun will shine,
Leaving cold and rainy far behind.

Frostweed! Native from Texas east to the Atlantic, Verbesina virginica can reach nine feet tall, making it a BBBW (big, burly, botanical wonder). Large inflorescences of nectar-rich flowers are a favorite of dozens of pollinators, including dozens of species of butterflies.

Continued Below

Snow on the Mountain! Euphorbia marginata is a late-summer to autumn-blooming wildflower that is closely related to poinsettia. Look closely and you’ll see the green and white “petals” (technically bracts) are similar to the red bracts on poinsettias. It attracts a wide range of pollinators, from beetles to butterflies.

Baccharis! Texas hosts two look-alike species of this fall-flowering BBBW (to 16 feet tall!), and they have perhaps a dozen common names between them (Roosevelt weed, New Deal weed, groundsel tree, consumptionweed, salt marsh-elder, and many others). “Invisible” to most people until fall, when the greenish-white flowers develop into lovely silver-white fruits called achenes that resemble little paintbrushes.

Rough-leaf Dogwood! This tough-as-nails species (Cornus drummondii) is adapted to grow just about everywhere its much-celebrated cousin, eastern dogwood, can’t. The porcelain-white fruits will adorn this large, colonizing shrub long after the leaves have fallen. And while Wikipedia notes it is “uncommon in the wild,” they’re not talking about Texas, as it is abundant in rural areas here.

Continued Below

Gulf Muhly! Mild-mannered and modest all summer long, Muhlenbergia capillaris throws caution to the wind in autumn, tossing up a show-stopping soft pink cloud of tiny seed heads. Native from Guatemala to Maine and west to Texas, this dapper little grass has long been a favorite of keen gardeners.

Moonflower! A close relative of morning glory, moonflower vine (Ipomea alba) features large (about 6 inches across!), pleated, white blossoms strung across 12- to 20-foot-long vines from mid-summer to frost.

Last of the Dragonflies! While photographing the moonflower in the previous paragraph, I found a dragonfly that had settled on a moonflower leaf for the night. He was in a torpid state, unable to fly until warming up a bit in the morning sun. Ten minutes later, he was gone.

Click image for larger view.

Epiphyllum! Let me delve into the weird stuff…epiphyllum is a cactus that grows in trees. Far out! Incredibly intricate, wonderfully fragrant flowers are borne along the margins of flattened, sword-like stems, which wind their way through trees in Meso and South America. Mine is in a basket. 😊

7:30am I’m out of time…I gotta go to work!
Peace & love, Steven


Just so you know … the Longview Arboretum & Nature Center is OPEN! Hours are 10am-5pm, Wednesday through Saturday; Sunday 12 noon-5pm. Come out and see us! And bring your own brand of Zen! 903-212-2181

Make plans to attend our annual Garden Party fund-raiser on Saturday, October 22. The Royal Dukes will be layin’ down the jams, so prepare to boogie! Live auction, great food, open bar, and a few surprises, too.

Go to for details!

Posted by Steven Chamblee
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