A colorful surprise





“Flowers!” I exclaimed. I like flowers as much as the next flower liking person but, it’s not typical me to get so excited and my sudden outburst startled Tim. It was just at that moment realized that I hadn’t seen a wild flower for over five weeks. Coastal California doesn’t necessarily give you much time to miss flowers. At almost any time of year there is one to see in full bloom. Last week right after a soggy night we woke up in the clouds.
As we drove from the Guadalupe Mountains down into the west Texas valley below we could smell, windows rolled up and all, the strong resinous scent of the creosote plantation spread out before us. I didn’t think too much of this rain as we’ve had rain on and off all winter, as to be expected. Yet there we were a few days later driving along the fluid international border in Rio Grande Ranch State Park where I saw the flowers that got me so excited. Bright yellow Desert Marigolds (Baileya multiradiata) and deep purple Bluebonnet Lupines (Lupinus havardii) standing tall as if spring hit as soon as I turned the calendar to February. I wondered then at the psychology of flowers. I thought about how each year as we go through the cycle of the seasons. We watch the trees and shrubs die back, the days become darker, colder, shorter. It doesn’t take a study to tell me that the effect of wildflowers is simply a rebirth of the land. We’ve been through many spots where I could imagine a warm summer day with fully leaved trees creating a dappled sun effect on hikes that currently felt a little like walking towards the witches house in the woods with dark tree trunks and spiky branches protruding into the trails. We’ve seen the bare branches of ocotillos, acacias and mesquites outside with pictures and videos of the bright pops of a blooming desert inside many of the visitor centers. Flowers also mean the warmth of sun. For the past several days we’ve been in Big Bend National Park soaking up the warm sun and flowers. We’ve seen Bi-colored Mustards (Nerisyrenia camporum), Mock Vervain (Glandularia bipinnatifida), blooming creosote and yuccas and many more yellows, whites, purples and pinks amongst all the greens and browns. With flowers comes pollinators and the many colors of butterflies flitting about didn’t disappoint either.

Even though no one needs a study to tell us that flowers (generally) make us happy I did look into it and it turns out that Rutgers recently published a scientific study on the emotional impact of flowers. The findings show that flowers trigger positive emotions and lower stress levels. So yeah, duh. I thought I’d also look into butterflies since there were so many around and was reminded that the greek word for butterfly is “phyche” and that it’s the root of the word psychology. This all seemed very significant for me because January was pretty dark, cold and often times frustrating as we learned the ropes of life on the road. The rebirth of color is showing up in more places than just the ground under my feet.

As we head out of Big Bend tomorrow we begin desert departure. The weather took a dramatic turn this afternoon and I can feel the next storm blowing in as Squatch rocks in the wind. I’m sure there are many more beautiful floral surprises and springs ahead in our journey east.

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