are the days of the of wild chokecherry blossoms; a time when summer in the Rockies
is full on, yet utterly fresh. Most weeks it's hard to even
spot the head-high chokecherry shrubs along the deep green edges of the woods.
But not now, when the tips of the branches are bursting with cylinders of tiny white
blossoms. For me these flowers have always seemed a kind of bridge, carrying us across the ten
or twelve day pause that happens each year between the opening blooms of spring,
and the fiery shows of summer.
Human lives have long been tied to chokecherry. The Crow made tipi stakes from the branches, and used the bark to clean their wounds. Plains tribes harvested the fruit for "pemmican" - a kind of mince meat, if you will, that served as a critical food source during the long months of winter. Meriwether Lewis, while stuck with a fever and severe stomach cramps on the Upper Missouri, tossed back a tea of chokecherry twigs and reported soon being remarkably better. (Better enough to get up the next day and march 27 miles.) Pioneers gathered the firm, sour cherries and turned them into jams, even wine.
Of course some people still harvest the fruits, still turn them into jams and wine. But I think most of us come to the plant in just this one week, in these days when it sits heavy with blossoms. The days when chokecherry makes us blink. The days when it pulls us out of our troubles and into the beautiful.