Norman Knight: Flower power by the Mounds

It was a Flower power day, for sure.

Earlier in the year Becky had suggested it might be fun to go on a few small adventures over the summer. A day trip to a historic site, a big city museum, a hike through a state or national park—something to stimulate and educate ourselves. As much as we both love our home in the woody hills, a change of scenery is often a gateway to new knowledge and awareness of the wonderful world around us.

Our chosen destination was Mounds State Park in Madison County. Trying to keep in mind that “the journey is the destination,” we chose to drive north on State Road 9 rather than the interstate. In spite of the “I” in I-465, the driver’s “eye” can’t really take in much of the view on interstates because of the need to be constantly monitoring the fury of traffic all around. State Road 9 took a bit longer, I suppose, but our journey was definitely less hectic.

It was still morning when we pulled up to the stone gate house and bought our entrance pass. A few vehicles were parked and just a few people were roaming about. It was the middle of the week, after all. Inside the visitor center a group of children, day campers, probably, encircled a model of the mounds while listening to a park guide talk. It was a beautiful June day with just the hint of a breeze, too nice to be inside, so we picked up an informational brochure and headed out.

The park has six trails rated easy, moderate or rugged. We decided to start with Trail 5 because it circled the park. The other trails intersected with it and we walked those as we came to them.

The 10 prehistoric mounds and earthworks are located in the center of the park. Much of the knowledge of the purposes of mounds and of the people who built them is scientific speculation. It is known that they were not used for burial areas but most likely for religious ceremonies. An archeological survey crew discovered, by accident, that some of the mounds and the sun are in astronomical alignment during the summer and winter solstices. Puts one to mind of Stonehenge and other prehistoric sites, and reminds us once again that ancient peoples had knowledge and wisdom that should be celebrated and not dismissed.

When we were back at the visitor center Becky struck up a conversation with a volunteer working in the flower gardens. Dale answered her questions about particular plants, and it was obvious he knew his flowers. He suggested we check out the full sun native species butterfly gardens not too far away. We drove over and did just that. Indiana has so many beautiful native species of flowers and plants. It can make you sad when you consider how non-native invasive species introduced by humans can take over an area.

When Dale showed up at the butterfly gardens, he and Becky—the true Flower Child in our relationship—continued the flower conversation. After a while, he mentioned that he lived just a couple of miles from the park and if we had the time, we could visit his woodland garden. “Sure,” we said.

Dale’s garden was a wonderful full shade garden space. He told us he had lived there since he was four and had been interested in flowers for nearly the same amount of time. Like many gardeners, he was glad to share his love of plants and, in fact, insisted we take several plant starts with us. We thanked him and left with some interesting species to add to our garden.

On the drive back we stopped for a late lunch at The Chaparral Café in downtown Shelbyville, an unpretentious local mainstay since 1962. Pictures and photos on the wall appear to have been there for about that long. Owner Shirley is still operating the register.

As soon as we got home, we went to work putting the plant starts into the ground. Then we sat down on the front porch. We agreed it had been a good beginning to our Summer Time Adventure Plan.

Norman Knight, a retired Clark-Pleasant Middle School teacher, writes this weekly column for the Daily Journal. Send comments to [email protected]