Grace, a plant-loving friend of mine, wrote to me today about seeing a white Geranium (Geranium caespitosum – Wild Geranium) which is usually a beautiful wine color.
She also saw a number of Long-tube ipomopsis plants (Ipomopsis tenuituba subsp. macrosiphon), each one with a different color.
When we see flowers in nature, we expect them always to be their own particular color, and for many wildflowers, that is pretty well true. There are some, like Richardson’s Geranium (Geranium richardsonii), that routinely come in white, pink or purple, and we come to expect that.
But when we go to the florist to buy flowers, we are pretty sure that many species will come in a variety of colors, like the roses I bought for my wife to celebrate her birthday.
As I have hiked trails in the mountains and valleys of Arizona, I have come to know many of the flowers. I usually can identify the plant by the color and shape of the flowers. And every now and again they fool me, and appear in the “wrong” color. In this case, the alternative color gives them a special attraction. I find the same when it comes to the skin colors of human beings.
We love the clear blue skies in Arizona. And we love the rain. Plant lovers also love imagining great bursts of color after a rainy season. And we are often disappointed. We had quite a bit of rain in December 2018, and over 18″ for the year (compared to the usual 10″-12″). At our house there were only three days of rain in early January. There was a lot of rain in February, so we expected a great spring bloom. Some parts of Arizona, and especially southern California got magnificent displays, but around the Tucson area it was ok but not spectacular.
Between the end of the last week of February and the first week of July, we had only four days with measurable rain (a period of 134 days). The monsoon rains were late coming, and, in the Tucson valley we had three good rainstorms in July and another three in August. In between we have had some of the hottest days on record. So even though our total rainfall for the year to date at our house is over 8″, (well above average), the wildflowers are not doing well this year. Today I talked with a friend who keeps bees, who explained that the lack of flowers has meant that one of his four hives is now empty. Evidently the bees have flown off to find a place with more nectar.
The amazing thing to me is how resilient plants are. They manage to survive through the tough times, and flourish in the good times. We, it seems, need to stop anticipating whether it will be a good season for flowers or not, and just enjoy what we get.
August 17, 2019
When the sun sets over the ocean, you can see a shaft of light in the water reflecting its glow. Some time ago I read about moments when the reflection goes upward, into the sky. In this case I suppose it is reflecting off of water particles in the air. Recently I was thrilled to catch this phenomenon in a photograph, taken from our back porch.
Reflections can have quite a charm. Now that I am less than a month away from my 92 birthday, I am reflecting quite a bit. I am especially bringing to mind some of the wonderful trails my wife, Louise, and I have taken in the 37 years we have lived in Arizona.
The most spectacular of these was a rim-to-rim hike in the Grand Canyon, about 18 years ago. Louise’s sister, Ann, had the idea. In the end eight of us did the hike, including Ann’s family, Zuber cousins and our son, Owen. The actual hike was on Tuesday, Oct. 2, 2001. There was a full moon that night. The steep walls of the canyon meant that we did not see the moon rise at all, and even much later could only see it shining on the distant cliffs. We arrived at the end of our journey at 11:30 pm. By then we were bathed in moonlight, and feeling remarkably good given the fact that we had hiked 24 miles in 17 hours. It was not exactly a break-neck pace, but we did it. The next day we noticed that we had no sore muscles or blisters. We felt fine.
How did my wife, who was 72 at the time, and I (just turned 74) manage such a feat? The simple answer was “training.” For months we tackled all kinds of trails in various times of day, gradually building up our endurance. In addition to getting us in condition for the long hike, it took us deeper on familiar trails than we had been before, and allowed us to further extend our knowledge of the scenic beauty in this magnificent state.
All this is coming back into my memory because my health now does not allow me to take long hikes. For the last twenty years, every week I have taken part in summer plant walks. Originally they were led by Dr. Bob Porter, and Joan Tedford. For the last eight years I have been the leader. And the hikes have grown. About forty people were on the last one on August 1. We ended the hike in Marshall Gulch, where more people joined us for a wonderful picnic and celebration. I was very touched. These walks have meant so much to me and I know I will miss them, and the wonderful people who share them.
I will continue to go to the mountains, enjoying the beauty of the landscape and its flora and fauna. And I will have more time for reflection.