Where Flowers Bloom…

My part of Texas is awash in wildflowers right now. In the past month I have taken numerous trips to Austin’s Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center to walk and to marvel at the bounty of Spring. So much beauty to ooh and aah over, especially our Texas Blue Bonnets.

Texas Blue Bonnet

On some of the outer trails my eyes are drawn to the large patches of blue. I am reminded of our ubiquitous Blue Bonnet paintings.

Trail At Wildflower Center

Go to an art gallery showcasing Texas landscape art and you will find paintings of Blue Bonnets…Longhorn cattle in Blue Bonnets…barbed wire fences and Blue Bonnets…old trucks and Blue Bonnets. These have been popular for years and they sell well. People ooh and aah over them. Somewhere there is probably a painting of a T-Rex in a field of Blue Bonnets.

And then there are the photos. People trample swaths of these flowers to pose their children and dogs next to them. The Wildflower Center does have a couple of designated areas where visitors can pose with the Blue Bonnets without destroying them. I have done this myself with family and friends. They are pretty, but this kind of gets boring after a while. I seek out the other flowers sprinkled among and near the blue ones. The real Texas landscape has many kinds and colors of flowers. Every color you can imagine.

Tansy Aster (?)

Chocolate Daisy (leaves smell like chocolate)

Orange Mallow and Texas Yellow Star

Texas Paintbrush With Other Flowers

Texas Paintbrush and Blue Bonnets

Variety is the spice of life. Each living creature adds to the beauty of the world. I like to think of each human as an individual flower with a unique beauty. What if, in our urban and suburban landscapes, we celebrated the diversity of the people we see as we walk through our towns and shop in our stores? What if we oohed and aahed at the beauty of each person? It might be a bit weird if we did this out loud, but we can do this inside ourselves. And maybe we would greet them with a smile and the world would be a better, more loving place…at least for that one day for those people…the admired and the one admiring.

(I was going to subtitle this month’s blog “Pollyanna on her soapbox with pretty pictures”…I do believe each of us who model this sort of love for our fellow creatures can influence others. )

Texas Paintbrush and Blue Bonnets

*(All photos taken by the author at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center except for the last photo which was taken at McKinney Falls State Park)

Check out the website: wildflower.org

Pandemic Spring

Ah! Spring! I don’t like winter. I need the promise of coming warmth, new growth, and renewal to get me through the cold, dreary days. I always look forward to visiting local parks to see the beautiful displays of wildflowers in central Texas.

Well, spring is here, but this¬†year it will be different for all of us. We are now under city of Austin/county of Travis orders not to leave our homes unless it is for essential reasons. Buying groceries, walking our dogs, and exercising are considered essential. We are not allowed to gather with non family members and must remain 6 feet apart from all others when we venture out. This is new and scary territory as the number of coronavirus victims rises. As of this writing there are 179 cases in the county (up from 160 the day before) and there has been 1 death. I note my physical state each day and try not to leap to the conclusion that I’ve got it. I try for some sort of normality, but these are not normal times.

Last Sunday, March 15th, I ventured out to a nearby grocery store. There were too many bare shelves. I had seen some the week before, but somehow I thought those were anomalies. The bread shelves were bare. There was no milk at all in the dairy case. There was no cheese. No ramen. The frozen pizza area was picked almost to the bone. I walked around the store in awe. I did buy a few things. But, the only things on my grocery list that I actually found were wine and toothpaste. Driving out of the parking lot I started to cry and was pretty blue the rest of the day. At least we had some food at home. We are lucky. So far no one I know has gotten ill.

I am still trying to get used to the lack of freedom. At first I was sure that I would be able to go out and walk among the flowers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. Then they closed some of their facilities (gift shop, cafe, classrooms, etc.). Okay. No problem. The grounds were still open and I planned a visit. I would get to see the owl, Athena, who had recently returned to nest near the entrance. Maybe her owlets had hatched. But, No! The Wildflower Center decided to close their grounds to all but essential staff.

Okay, I thought, I can still go out to my favorite nearby state park, Mckinney Falls, and indulge my wildflower and birding passions. Their grounds (400+ acres) were still open when I checked their website on March 19th. The site suggested reserving a park day pass online to minimize park staff interacting with the public. I planned a trip to the park with my husband. On March 22nd I checked the website. No! The park was now closed too!

Okay, I know I am whining. So many people are getting very sick and many are dying. Even doctors and nurses are dying. Celebrities and heads of state are getting sick. I am in the older than 60 group that has a greater risk of dying of the virus and I am grasping at focusing on Nature’s beauty and not on Nature’s ugly.

I can’t go see the park flowers in person during this pandemic, but I have photos from past years. I can do a virtual park tour. I share a few here for you to enjoy. Stay safe and I hope to join you next spring among the flowers.

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Tiger Swallowtail on Horsemint

Indian Blankets
Indian Blankets

Milkweed Pearl Vine
Insect nymph on Milkweed Pearl Vine

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Young White-tailed Deer Buck

Blue bonnets
Texas Blue Bonnets

**All Photos taken at McKinney Falls State Park by Betty McCreary