Wildflowers of My Life
Mountain wildflowers have been part of the formative memories in my life. Not only did they proliferate on the dry mountainside of our Colorado home, but they have been ubiquitous on our mountain hikes and backpacking trips. Whether it was Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, or New Mexico, the native flowers that have been a part of my life are both tenacious and beautiful.
The Blue Hue of Lupines
Wild lupines transport me back to Montana, when in the early summer, cerulean violet lupine flowers begin to cover the mountain valleys. They form a luscious carpet. The meadows surrounding my family’s cabins take on a blue hue as all these iconic flowers come into bloom.
Many years ago, my dear aunt Joyce even named her cabin after them, Lupine Lodge. When I think back on lupines, I remember all the summers spent in Montana from the time I was a young girl to now.
The Bitter Chokecherries of My Youth
It is somewhat of an oxymoron to pick a fruit as bitter and poisonous as the chokecherry only to cook it into something as delectable as chokecherry jam.
I first encountered chokecherries in the days of my foolish youth, when my parents, siblings, and I would stop along the road and pick the Montana berries. We would fill ice cream buckets and then haul them back to the log cabin nestled in the backwoods of the Absaroka Beartooth mountain range. There we would begin the long process of transforming these bitter berries into luscious jams and syrups.
Backpacking with Thimbleberries
Likewise, thimbleberries have been part of many a mountain hike. The day typically goes like this: we’re walking along the trail, maybe having just crossed a hot sunny rockslide. We progress into a shaded area, and there’s a small mountain stream that runs next to the path.
Billowing among the undergrowth are thimbleberry bushes. Of course, we stop, nibble on some for a few minutes, take a big swig of water from our bottles, then start moving again. This scenario could repeat itself over and over depending on how much of a hurry we’re in.
Thimbleberries to me represent a refreshing pause for a fatigued body. They are a fresh respite to a hot day and a touch of nourishment to our increasingly hungry stomachs.
Beauty on the Edge of a Mountain
Our house sat just back from the edge of the steep Rocky Mountain foothills of Colorado. The hills were stony with clusters of scrub oak and prairie grasses. Cacti poked their thorny faces out from the rocky soil, just asking you to step on them.
As I made my way down to the valley below, I couldn’t help but marvel at how so many varieties of wildflowers seemingly thrived in such harsh and adverse conditions. The soil was very poor, and the hillside faced southwest, so it got a beating from the afternoon sun. What moisture did come either evaporated off or ran down the incline.
In this unwelcoming xeriscape, wildflowers dotted the hillside, cheerfully beaming their colorful faces. Darling little burgundy Mexican hats, Indian paintbrush, ruby colored penstemon, yellow potentilla, and rudbeckia scattered across the dry slope.
These wild beauties have adapted to the conditions of their environment. Many of them have long roots that drill down to the moisture and nutrients that are deep below the surface. Indian paintbrush thrive despite the conditions. Being a hemiparasite, this flower piggybacks off the surrounding grasses. They attach themselves to the roots of nearby grasses, which are already burrowed deep in the soil.
A Flower’s Inspiration
Is the Indian paintbrush’s stamina and unexpected beauty a metaphor for life? When one fights hard for something, the result becomes particularly striking. Over time, these flowers have figured out not only how to grow, but they’ve learned how to flourish in adverse situations. In fact, for these flowers, their environment isn’t adverse; it’s the norm.
Joy from Wildflowers and Berries
I find wildflowers to be inspiring. When I am huffing and puffing up a mountainside, I look over the steep slopes or high mountain meadows, and I see spectacular beauty in the wildest environments. How can I not breathe easier in their delicate elegance?
My eyes light up when I see wildflowers in bloom against the stark and vast background they call home. Then the wild berries come as a rare gift in the wilderness when tasted on the edge of a remote trail.
As I sit here, painting within the bleak January landscape, I wait for next summer. I hope my family’s trips into the mountains coincide with the bloom times of our favorite flowers or the ripening of our favorite mountain fruits.
Until then I draw them, and I paint them, and I offer them for you to enjoy on art prints and cards as well. This is so you can dream along with me. We can wait together for warmer days, for summer mountain wildflowers, for buckets full of chokecherries, for bushes alongside high mountain trails that offer up what little they have so that the fleeting visitor might be refreshed.