Artemisia Tridentata

In Vale, Oregon, population 1750,
sagebrush blanketed the hills
and crept into wooded areas.
The ugly grayish green shrubs
were so much a part of the landscape
they were unremarkable.

Sagebrush were bushes to avoid
because they might be
hiding places for rattlesnakes;
if we brushed against them,
our mothers made us strip
to check for ticks;
and sagebrush seemed useless,
covering miles and miles of territory
without providing respite
from the scorching summer heat.

To be truthful, I never really looked
at the sagebrush–it was so common
it did not seem worth examination.
Who knew there was big sagebrush
and fringed sagebrush and stiff sagebrush?
Who stopped to notice that big sagebrush’s
petite, fan-shaped leaves formed tiny tridents
and frilled sagebrush’s leaves were as delicate as lace?

Sagebrush was something to steer clear of,
not a plant to glorify with a highfalutin name
like Artemisia tridentata.

 

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About Judy Grigg Hansen
I write poetry and nonfiction, and I am passionate about the people, places, and wildflowers of Idaho and the Northwest.

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