A few weeks ago, I hosted some visitors from England. We hiked up a long draw in the badlands. They were especially interested in seeing the red rocks up close.
Turning a corner toward a steep ridge, we encountered masses of bright red Indian paintbrush. “You’re very lucky,” I told them. “Usually we only see these much higher in the mountains.”
They took out their phones and snapped away, as did I.
They had been worried about encountering snow in late June, and it was not a foolish concern. The ground underfoot was slippery with mud — an unusual feeling in this desert climate.
Back on June 5, at Sheridan Creek, I had encountered my first harbinger of spring: This tiny white blossom. I don’t know its name.
I found it hiding in the straw-like dead grass. There were no signs of green yet.
It had burst forth only a few feet from some remaining patches of snow.
Recently, I took my cousin and a friend on the same hike I had enjoyed with the visitors from England. The ground was already dry and cracked.
I couldn’t resist a calling out in pleasure: “The lupines are out!” These lush blue flowers — my favorite of the wild flowers we see every year — had arrived in force, to join the Indian paintbrush.
Could I write about mere flowers on Independence Day? Of course, I realized earlier today: The first flowers I saw during my wanderings this year were red, white, and blue.
I have so many pictures of flowers that I never get around to posting here: Small orange blossoms hidden beneath the sagebrush, purple daisy-like blooms that pop up on the sides of dirt roads, yellow cactus flowers that bloom and are gone in a few days. I can’t resist taking their pictures, because to look from a distance (say, in a passing car) this landscape often appears dead, or at least boring.
We know that many visitors want come to this area hoping to see wildlife, and we do see plenty of it crossing the fields on four legs or swooping across the sky. But this, I remind myself, is another wonderful form of wild life — and one which many passersby will miss.
Soon, if not already, at higher elevations the wildflowers will burst out in explosions of colors, as bright and extravagant as any fireworks we see on this day every year.
A friend told me that it sometimes makes her feel wistful to see these vistas, thinking of others who are no longer fit enough to get up into the mountains to see them. I also feel sad for those who don’t know, or don’t bother.
Seize the day, and always cherish your independence …
© Lois Wingerson, 2018
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