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Monday Photo Meditation: The First Fireblossom

Morning Tulip By Wings 042618 Resized

We are now entering that brief but beautiful period of annual firsts: the first hummingbird; the first dragonfly; the first fireblossom.

That’s not its name, of course. It’s nothing more than an ordinary red tulip. But after a drought-ridden winter and early spring, when the wind whips the dust into a traveling wall and the rain on all sides steadfastly refuses to fall, the first red flower of spring feels like the fires of passion, of fertility, of love itself made real.

It appeared four days ago, tucked nearly underneath the running board of the horse trailer. It’s a place sheltered from most winds, and one where residual moisture collects for a time. Wings found it, snapped it, sent it to me as a virtual gift, one of countless small expressions of love.

Even on a day too busy for buying flowers, he still manages to give them to me.

Better still, of course, is seeing the first flame-red petals in person. That evening, he showed it to me, one small scarlet bloom upon a land not yet sufficiently green.

If the patterns of recent years hold, four such tulips will bloom in this small plot. This year, though, we know that there are no guarantees; the year has already fled far beyond the bounds of our usual patterns of climate and weather. We now have to worry whether the earth here will birth more indigenous blossoms, the sort that are among the people’s cultural markers and medicine. Even the trees are late-blooming this year, some of them, anyway: From one aspen to the next in single stands, one tree may already be green, its branches heavy with pollen, while that which shares its roots remains skeletal and gray. And it’s not just one stand, but all of them.

Other than the evergreens, only the willows seem truly to be thriving. Among those that weep, one lost a branch to yesterday evening’s high winds, a nascent storm of tornadic intent that spent itself and spun itself out in a fury of directional changes, leaving behind no rain but ripping an arm from the center willow, leaving its end stuck high in the tree like some amputated hand flung unsuccessfully away.

A small amount of water drifted into the pond yesterday, but by morning, the flow had dried up again. Between sun and wind, the water levels had already begun to evaporate by sundown; there will be precious little for irrigation this year, a grim start to the planting season that begins this week. There will be no water to 2waste on non-essentials, and save for the few wildflowers that grow naturally in a dry desert environment, there will be no percentage in trying to cultivate domestic blooms.

We shall have to content ourselves with the blossoms that attend the crops, those of runner beans and squash, and the wild petals of Indian paintbrush and the cactus flowers that thrive in soil hot and dry as ash.

And the occasional fireblossom, unexpected and all the more welcome for it.

They say red is the color of love. Perhaps it is also the color of cultivation: of gratitude, of appreciation, for the petals of spiritual fire in a time of drought.

~ Aji









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