Reading Weeds, Part III: Roadside Roses I Don’t Deserve…But Thank You Anyway

Roadside roses are my own personal metaphor for life’s overflowing blessings.

Nature finds a way.

I’ve shared this song before, but it’s that time of year again.

Roadside Roses

 

As if the scenery weren’t already sweet

The air is alive with wild rose

As if my life weren’t already complete

This mountain of gratitude grows.

           

Chor.   Roadside roses, how they scent the evening air

            How they decorate the brambles of the past

            Sometimes happiness becomes too much to bear

            Some blessings are impossible to grasp.

 

No need to analyze, no need to think

How these wild gardens came to be

No cause and effect, there is no link                                                                                 

But it feels like they’re blooming for me.

           

Chor.   Roadside roses, how they scent the evening air

            How they decorate the brambles of the past

            Sometimes happiness becomes too much to bear

            Some blessings seem too delicate to last.

 

Bridge: Don’t take it personal, but make sure you take

            The portion that Nature has served                                                                                        

Joy’s universal, and so’s the heartache

            Of having more than you deserve.

 

Chor.   Roadside roses, how they scent the evening air

            How they decorate the brambles of the past

            Sometimes happiness becomes too much to bear

             Some blessings are not meant for us to ask.

 

If I were to linger here and breathe this perfume

Sweeping my duties away

Would I feel entitled, would I start to assume

That I’ve earned the privilege to stay?

 

Chor.   Roadside roses, how they scent the evening air

            How they decorate the brambles of the past

            Sometimes happiness becomes too much to bear

            Some blessings are not meant for us to ask.

             Some blessings are impossible to grasp.

G. Wing, June 2013

Now multiply this by an entire island

Do you have a favorite nature metaphor of your own? I collect them. Care to share?

Mmm…

 

Private Views of Public Lands: Who Do These People Think They Are? Oh. Heh. Us.

How do government workers stand it? All the democracy, I mean. All the dealing with people on whose behalf they are planning the roads or designing the curriculum…or, in this case, protecting the land.

This land. And this chocolate lily and this death camas.

The cover shot of this blog is part of the San Juan National Monument–which happens to be practically in my backyard. So I spend a lot of time out there–enough to feel a strong degree of ownership. “Yeah, yeah, public land…but they don’t know it and love it like I do.”

It’s not like the path is hard to find or anything.

Which is why it’s so hard, every year as Memorial Day approaches, watching the hordes of visitors begin to tromp my beloved paths. Or, often as not, tromp OFF them, into the meadows and over the fragile lichens, despite the signs asking them oh-so-politely not to…

Have you ever seen a sweeter, more polite sign from the feds? It even says Thank you!

despite the not-subtle blockages of routes…

C’mon, people…sticks mean no walkies!

and, oh yeah, this brand-new sign with the trails perfectly marked and the endangered wildflowers listed (the ones you’re tromping on now, you!!! Get back on the trail! (Easy, girl.)

Thanks, taxpayers! (You’re welcome.)

How do they DO it, those Bureau of Land Management folks who, charged with protecting this fragile landscape, hosted public meeting after public meeting with every possible stakeholder, striking the perfect compromise between use and misuse, the perfect language for every sign–including when NOT to place a sign at all? And then to see how many people deliberately breeze past your handiwork because they NEED to go climb that rock?

THIS rock…which has a perfectly good access if you’d just walk a little further up the trail!

I know, believe me. I’ve scoffed my share of laws–dog off leash for years (though I always leashed up if I saw another person), lichens crushed, flowers picked because I wanted to. But that was BEFORE someone asked me (politely) not to, and took the time to explain why.

Do we need to ask more politely? Explain more thoroughly? Or just resign ourselves to the fact that a certain percentage of people will always do exactly what they want no matter that–or even because–someone’s asking them not to?

I’m really bad at resignation. Guess there’s a reason I don’t work for the Bureau of Land Management. I have too much personal, private passion wrapped up in these lands…which aren’t private in the least.

Which is good. I happen to have neighbors who are equal parts wealthy, environmentally concerned, and generous. I walk and run on their paths as much as on the National Monument; they are contiguous, the same stunning stretch of coastline. And grateful as I am for their permission to drink in the private beauty, it feels weird to me that it IS private. That so few people have access…to wander off its trails, tromp its delicate meadows and lichens and…

Delicate lichens and red-leafed stonecrop that suddenly shows itself golden in the spring…

Oh dear. Here we go again. Guess I’ll just wrap it up this way: I love our democracy. I love the idea of public lands. And I appreciate the hell out of the folks who have to deal with the public ON the land, because…they sure are better at it than I am.

Road Trip VI, Days 12-15, Anza-Borrego Desert Park: Musings on Rarity

I know–usually I title my posts based on the start and end points of the days in question. But would you read a post about “LA to Scottsdale?” Me neither.

Yes, we left LA last Friday and are now visiting friends in the greater Phoenix area. But in between we visited Son One up in the San Bernardino Mountains–think 5,000 feet above the valley, where the air is scented with cedar and more different kinds of pine than I can remember–and from there spent nearly three days in Anza-Borrego Desert Park.

Never heard of it? Neither had we, until recently. It’s only the second-largest state park in California (and simultaneously a national monument), but it’s pretty much in the middle of nowhere: halfway between San Diego and Palm Springs. You have to WANT to go there.

The Mate and I went on two gloriously sunny hikes with our friends, noticing the touches of spring the recent rains have brought. I saw lots of tiny golden poppies, and red chuparosa looking like the custom-made hummingbird feeder it is.

Hummingbird feeder.

Hummingbird feeder.

But the flowers that really caught my attention were the singletons.

In a whole giant desert full of agave, I saw exactly ONE blooming.

Also called Century Plant, 'cause supposedly that's how often it blooms

Also called Century Plant, ’cause supposedly that’s how often it blooms

And traditional-looking barrel-type cactus? Same thing: ONE.

Actually I've no idea what kind of cactus this is. Anyone?

Actually I’ve no idea what kind of cactus this is. Anyone?

So which pictures do I post and write about? Why, those two. They’re not the prettiest things we saw, just the rarest. Rare = Special.

Why is that? Is the answer too obvious, or too subtle to perceive?

 

Rain, Rain…Please Come (But Not Like in Texas)

Just a quick post (as summer is suddenly upon me and my bakery job is gobbling larger chunks of my life) to say…here is a picture of the happiest plant on my island right now:

Yes, there ARE cacti in the coastal northwest! But they shouldn't be this happy this time of year.

Yes, there ARE cacti in the coastal northwest! But they shouldn’t be this happy this time of year.

Something’s wrong with this picture. We’re supposed to be soggy this time of year, wiping our muddy boots, wondering whether today’s moisture will be morning, evening, or some of each.

Moisture? I hardly remember what that is. We’re in drought. Nothing like California, nothing even as bad as the eastern part of our state, Washington. But enough to remind me that our state name, The Evergreen State, is in danger. And enough for me to beg those of you who enjoy complaining about rain to please, just keep quiet for a little while.

Unless you live in Texas. Then you’re allowed to complain.

Hang in there, people! Mother Nature is definitely in charge. All we can do is help each other.

What’s the Wildflower Equivalent of a BirdNerd?

Birdwatchers call themselves Bird Nerds. What does that make someone like me–a Wildflower Wonk? Consider this a slang contest–best entry gets highlighted in the next Wing’s World post. 

Just so you know what you’re dealing with, imagine this conversation between us. I’m returning from my walk in the meadows and woods of my beloved isle. You’re…indoors. Doing whatever you want.

Me: The chocolate lilies are blooming!!!

You: Uh. Chocolate lilies sound special. Do they smell like chocolate?

Me: No. They’re uh, just, like, really rare.

You. Uh-huh. Are they outrageously gorgeous?

Me: No. Just kinda brownish. That’s why they’re called, you know, chocolate. But they’re rare! They’re special.

You: That’s nice.

Me: And did I mention the spotted coral root? It’s out, like, a month early!

You: When’s dinner?

lily

My Mate is not that bad–which is why I made you the other half of the conversation, not him. But you get the idea. I get so excited about rare wildflowers, I don’t care if they’re pretty or sweet-smelling or even mildly attractive. I am a total…

orchid

What? Who can do better than Wildflower Wonk? Let me hear your ideas.

Sorry, Dolly Parton: Wildflowers DO Care Where They Grow…And That’s Cool

Dolly Parton’s lovely song notwithstanding, wildflowers can be very picky about their habitat. But when they find a home, oh wow, do they show their appreciation. This week I’m giving special thanks for that. Since my sweet dog left us last weekend, I’ve been going for walks without a dog for the first time in ten years, and the flowers act like comforting hugs.

The Mate and I are especially blessed to live not only on a beautiful island, but adjacent to a piece of land that has recently been declared part of a National Monument (thanks, President Obama!). We walk out into the meadow to be greeted by a riot of flowers.

buttercups

 

Sometimes it’s enough just to appreciate them in a blanket. But usually I’m drawn down to my knees to inspect their delicacy up close. These flowers deserve a better photographer than me, but in my mind’s eye they’re captured exactly as they should be.

camas

But it’s the picky ones that are my favorites. The Calypso Orchid only grows in patches of woods where it can find a particular fungus it likes. Spotting one, so perfect in its intricate fleshiness,  feels like a special gift.

orchid

Then there’s the chocolate lily. I don’t think I love it just for its name, but that doesn’t hurt. Nearly brown (although with the sun shining through their petals, they are actually a gorgeous burgundy), they camouflage themselves among the buttercups and field chickweed. Then you spot one. Oh. There’s another. Oh, my. Suddenly you realize you are looking at an entire sweep of these tiny creatures that look like something from a very expensive bouquet.

lily

I was thinking about writing about the question, “Why do I care so much about knowing the ‘names’ of these flowers?” Or, “What is it about IDing something in nature that makes me feel so good?” But I’m really not feeling that philosophical right now. I am content to feel comforted.

Thanks, flowers. I needed that.

Favorite flower experiences? What do wildflowers do for you? Please share your special ones.

 

 

 

 

Leaving NC, Where Barbecue’s a Noun and Fish Are Flowers

Road Trip IV, Days 35-37:  Still in Durham, my hometown.

We were supposed to be on the road again today, headed back west. But Ma Nature had other plans (sound familiar?). So we’re hanging out an extra day with my folks. Car-camping in West Virginia is one thing; doing it in frozen rain is another. The Mate and I are outdoorsy, but we’re not IDIOTS.

So this extra time in the Tarheel State gives me the chance to talk about two phenomena we contemplate annually: barbecue and trout lilies.

First, ‘cue. Here’s what you need to know.

In the Upper Midwest and West, barbecue is a verb. “Gonna barbecue that salmon dad caught, wanna come over?” “Ooh, have you tried marinating the ribs in vodka before you barbecue ’em?”  Basically, it’s a synonym for “grilling.”

In Texas and most of the South, barbecue is an adjective: barbecued ribs. Barbecued chicken. Sometimes the “d” is left off, as in “barbecue potato chips,” but everyone understands, you’re pretty much referring to a sticky, spicy, tomato-based sauce, or at least that flavor.

In North Carolina, BARBECUE IS A NOUN.

Take a pig. Kill it. Dress it. Put the whole animal in an iron cooker with hickory chips for a couple-few days. Towards the end, when the meat is falling off the bone, chop it up with a secret mixture of vinegar, red pepper, and heaven. Let that cook awhile longer. Serve it up with sweet tea, fried okra, hush puppies and slaw. That’s  barbecue.

 

image

(In the eastern part of the state, and in South Carolina, they put mustard in the sauce, but I refuse to address such a travesty.)

The best barbecue in the state–and yes, I will fight you over this–is Allen and Son’s, which just happens to be four miles from my folks’ house. In the old days, when The Mate used to fly back to NC to watch the ACC Tournament, he’d stop at Allen and Son’s first. When my folks fly out to visit us in Washington, they bring quarts of ‘cue, hard-frozen, in their luggage. That stuff is GOLD.

You can’t, or shouldn’t, eat it very often. Luckily, you don’t need to. And since we only come back here once a year, we feel free to pig out–pun intended–on ‘cue till we can’t stand up. (Then there’s Mama Dip’s fried chicken, but I’ll save that for next year’s posts.)

The antidote to all that grease (and, this year, to our Heels going out in the first game of the tournament) is the Wildflower Walk.

The Mate started this tradition way back when. The ACC Tourney finals air at 1 pm. That gives you hours and hours to while away and try to make room for more BBQ. So he got his basketball-watching friends, plus several of their non-basketball-watching spouses, to meet out on some land we owned and take a walk through the woods to look for trout lilies.

When you think “lily,” you picture something showy, right? Tiger lilies, or Easter? Trout lilies are their shy, modest, sweet little country cousins. They grown in the dead leaves of hardwood forests. Their leaves are speckled like trout, their pretty, mild-yellow faces hang down. They are among the first flowers of spring, and they are HARD to spot. Until you find one, and then, of course, they’re everywhere.

image

So, yes: these same crazy Tarheel fans who’ve been watching game after game and screaming at the tv for three days are now squealing with delight over…a flower. It’s a beautiful thing. They wander. They marvel. They breathe the quiet forest air.

 

image

And then, of course, it’s back to basketball and BBQ. The noun.

We’re heading west tomorrow, rain or shine. But in my mind, and stomach, I’ll still be gone, for a few more days, to Carolina.

Tell me: what is BBQ to you? Verb, adjective, noun? And do you have any traditions like our Wildflower Walk?