During this time when the world seems upside down, I look desperately for signs of hope. Signs of beauty. Signs of normality.
On our walk down to North Boulder Creek the other evening, I found it. A sign that life begins anew and spring is on its way.
Something faint purple catches my eye. I stoop down low to the ground, and yes, there it is. Ever so small and dainty, the first sign of spring popping up from the dusty and barren soil.
The delicate, yet lovely Pasque Flower.
It’s the first wildflower that appears in the foothills every spring. After the snow has melted, and the ground is bare, a burst of pale purple appears. One here underneath a pine tree, two or three over there. I look for it in late April and early May, and sure enough it shoots up on the forest floor.
As I take in its loveliness, it seems even more precious this year. At a time, when death and despair surround me at every turn, this rite of spring reminds me that some things are the same. Where even a trip to the grocery store can seem perilous, I latch on to the bloom of these tiny flowers as a sign that not everything is not askance.
Though the calendar says spring started more than a month ago, for mountain residents, spring arrives later, sometimes much later. Some of the heaviest snows of the season often fall in April, making it seem more like winter than spring. Nevertheless, signs of spring show up during the warmer days, reminding me that winter is coming to an end.
It’s always the first flower that comes up in the Colorado Rocky Mountains after the long, cold dark months of winter come to an end. The first bit of color on an otherwise bleak landscape of cold brown ground amidst aspens that won’t begin to leaf out for another month or so.
Its delicate nature belies it hardiness and bravery. It grows in the harshest of climates where the mountain winds blow in excess of 70 mph, on rocky slopes. It is small with velvety leaves clinging to the ground, barely a few inches off the ground. Those in a hurry might not even notice the first ones popping up. But it is the pale lavender color of its petals that stands out, daring winter to go away.
I’m here, I’m here — it whispers to the alpine woods. Leading the pack, encouraging others to follow in its path, proclaiming that warmer temperatures are on the way. Its lovely bloom won’t last long, usually just a couple of weeks before it starts to fade and go to seed.
The funny thing is that most springs, when I first start seeing these pale purple blooms, within a week, they are buried by a late-breaking spring snow storm. It’s almost by sprouting up, it dares Mother Nature with its boldness, and Mother Nature roars back with one last snow storm.
Will the sight of the flowers portend one last snowstorm in the Colorado Rocky Mountains?
The seeding of the flower is almost as noteworthy as the bloom itself, turning itself into a mop head of sorts that waves in the stiff mountain breezes. Being a lover of Dr. Seuss, whenever I see the “mop head” I am reminded of The Lorax, a book that spoke in a child’s voice to the importance of conservation through the plight of the Truffula Tree. The Lorax reminds me of the importance of “speaking for the trees” to save them from being demolished.
The irony is that I now work in the field of wildfire mitigation, where I convince mountain residents to cut down their trees to protect their homes from wildfires.
As you spend some time outside in the next couple of days, enjoying the warmer temperatures, look closely around your feet. Splatters of violet remind you the spring has indeed arrived.
During a time of sadness and anxiety, the Pasque Flower reminds us of beauty and life around us in our natural world.