Everywhere along the road side where no one has bothered to mow are whole lines of chicory, its lavender blue flowers precisely defined to the eye during these last few days of lower humidity and a cleaner light.
In its book on North American Flowers, the National Audubon Society describes chicory as used to “prevent scurvy, as a mild sedative and for skin irritations (146).” It does well in “waste places.”
It seems perfectly evolved to resist drought and abuse. The stem is flexible but tough skinned. One thin leaf hides under the flower, one flower per petiole, and the flowers close in mid-day sun and heat and then it resembles a desert plant – no extra parts to suck moisture; it is a skeletal, a survivor that has found a way to prosper in clay packed soil and salt scoured roadsides and on land no one wants. A perennial, it will come back every year. Deer eat it. Mice and Turkey and yellow jackets all make use of it. A deep tap root makes it hard to kill. One can brew its processed roots as tea or use the material to extend coffee. For at least 5000 years we have been using it for medicinal purposes. Flowers as a genus of plants are only about 120 million years old.
Stop your car along a back road in the morning, before the sun has gone high. Go down on your haunches and look at it. Touch it. Your eye will come back to the color, that wonderful blue. There you are, balanced on the balls of your feet in a place few notice. Does your time seem wasted? Now … can you see it?