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Monday Photo Meditation: Flower Medicine

Most of the wildflowers bloom later in the season here: Unlike the lands my own call home, elevation and late cold conspire to keep the land largely free of most blossoms until at least midsummer.

It’s not true, of course, of those blossoms that appear on trees, or on bushy stands like sagebrush buttercup; by the summer solstice, the latter are usually in full flower, and the former have already long since mostly given way to leaves. It tends not to be true, either, of the cultivated flowers found in various spaces in town — the occasional rosebrush, more often daises and gladiolus. But out here, on lands the outside world doesn’t fully comprehend as rural but that are their own low back country, the wildflowers wait.

Of course, what we call wildflowers are just as often flower medicine. Yucca and chamisa, aster and starflower, Indian paintbrush and poppy, clover and thistle: All have their uses well beyond the ornamental, even as we also use them to lend color and softness to home and land alike.

And out here, where much of the land remains relatively untouched, flow3r medicine appears in the most unlikely places.

The light here, of both season and storm, does odd things to the landscape. On a morning when the storm has passed through overnight and ceded land and day once more to the sun, the colors here defy rational explanation. Wings captured the image above in mid-July, and the mountainside appeared just as periwinkle, the thistle just as orchid, as those colors’ crayon counterparts in the Crayola Big Box.

It was an afternoon when seemingly our whole small world here was engaged in agricultural pursuits. To be clear, those pursuits were not brought here by any colonial invading and occupying force; Wings’s ancestors were already expert with soil, water, and season. Such ways are still common here, if perhaps a little less than, say, a decade ago. That’s probably due as much to the depredations of drought as to any disinterest on the part of most people; we know as well as anyone that in some years, climate change has made — and will increasingly make — ordinary patterns of planting and growth and harvest impossible. Still, there are probably a larger proportion of people engaged in such work at this season than in most other parts of this larger area. And at the time of this photo, many, many families who live, as we do, in this back country, were engaged in the same work as us, from bringing down the water for irrigation to planting and cultivation to the cutting, baling and stacking of the first hay cut of the year.

And the wildflowers had made their own space . . . around the concrete barrier of the water gate, up through the barbed wire stretched along the dusty track of a road.

Wings, on his way from one point to the next, noticed the wild thistle in full flower, joined early in the season by some brave and hardy purple asters. He could see the slightly olive-tinged green of the trees in the background, the bright gold of the bales and new-cut fields. And, of course, it all lay safe at the feet of the mountain, its bulk backlit by an ascendant sun, throwing its face into the purpled blues of shadow.

The view alone was medicine.

Now, there is a profusion of wildflowers on the west side of our own land, adjacent to the main ditch — a stretch that, only a couple of weeks ago, seemed overgrown with weeds. By the outside world’s lights, of course, they were. But like our ancestors, we know that what modernity dismisses as weeds in fact hold great power: of beauty, and of medicine.

And over these last weeks of summer, there will be many more of their flowers to come.

~ Aji








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