Pampas Grass

by Gail Tansill Lambert

While driving down Franklin Road across the bridge, I saw pampas grass glowing in the sunshine and swaying in the breeze over the Roanoke River. I couldn’t stop but promised myself I would return with a camera and capture the scene forever. I passed the same spot several times again and again and yet each time I was without my camera.  Frustration grew. I would miss the fleeting glory of these coastal plants.  

Finally, on a Sunday outing, I had my camera. We stopped quickly, my husband leaving the road and cautiously driving onto sandy ground. I took my pictures and they are perfect – close-ups, distance, group, and single shots of the feathery plumes.

I like certain plants; the snowball bushes like the ones once at my grandmother’s New England home, her tidy petunias and their fragrance, and the climbable mimosa trees at home. None of these claim my attention like pampas grass. Why is that? Is it because one our last family vacations was at the Outer Banks where pampas grass cast its glow over that Labor Day weekend?

No, the attraction to pampas grass began before that. It began the summer I was twelve and my family had moved into a house with great, tall pine trees in front, and a wilderness in the back to be tamed with a clothesline, trails, and a scythe. I noticed everything that summer and fall – the sky-blue heavens of a Deep South September and the muddy, mighty Chattahoochee River. I explored my new land on a bike up the lengthy hills. I scared myself pedaling downhill so fast I left behind the humid heat with the speed of the wind. Seldom did a car pass by. The roads were mine for miles and miles. My mother had no idea of the extent of my wanderings.  

I met a girl my age who lived in the large white house with green shutters on the corner. Green grass sloped from the house beneath the loblolly pines, but the best sight of all, for me, was the pampas grass on her lawn. The arrangement of the plumes and grass sprays made it look like a circular water fountain in a public park. The girl and I had something else in common other than our age. We both loved kickball. I worried about the ball falling into the pampas grass “fountain,” and getting cut by the innocent-looking pale green “spray,” but that was a danger to be endured. That summer fun ended when a laundry delivery truck ran over our white kickball right before school started. 

That summer I was twelve was the summer everything changed. The world became a place of beauty and mystery. I sat alone in the woods with oil paints and attempted to catch the rays of sunlight on the dusty brown bark of pine trees and the dappled sunshine of hardwoods.

Is that why Jesus spoke in the temple at age twelve? Why confirmation traditionally takes place at age twelve?  I wonder, because something happens to us around that age. When we begin to see the world and not just ourselves. When we see the beauty of the world – like pampas grass in the breeze – and our hearts never let it go.


An earlier version of Pampas Grass was published on 6/7/2018 on the blog for the Roanoke Valley Christian Writers,

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