On Weeds and Wildflowers

Weed or Wildflower? © Marty Schafer

There’s an old saying, “Bloom where you are planted.” I remember the first time I heard or saw this, my reaction was, “But I don’t like where I am.” I think I was a teenager at the time.

Lots of water has gone under the bridge since then. The first inkling that there was some wisdom to this was on a visit to Zion National Park. On the trail that followed the Virgin River from the main campsite into the canyon, there was a shooting star growing out of a crack in the rock wall some 2-3 feet off the ground. The steep canyon walls protected it from the desert sun, and moisture from the river (really a creek at that point) provided it with just enough water. I doubt it survived the next flash flood, but for that moment I marveled at its beauty and tenacity.

Living in the less photogenic desert of west Texas has brought a different perspective. This is flat scrub mesquite and sagebrush country, if you’re lucky, greasewood country if you aren’t. Add in prickly pear cactus, yucca, oil wells and tank batteries – you get the idea.

We have a yard with established trees and grass, and a water well that lets me grow roses and a small vegetable garden when I’m ambitious. Naturally, the weeds love it, too. Goat heads, grass burrs, khaki, dandelions, thistles, foxtail, mustard and many others try to take over. Weeding is a never-ending process.

But outside the fence the weeds become wildflowers. Salvia blooms pink, salmon and an occasional white. Yucca hang clusters of transparent paper lanterns from long stalks. Bluebonnets (a type of lupine) manage to put in an appearance, although nothing like the carpets further east. There are yellow daisy-like flowers and many others. Even the mesquite dangle sweet smelling flowers for a brief time, and the prickly pear sprout waxy yellow flowers that look like someone stuck them on with a thorn and which attract bees from miles around.

Walking the dog, I came across a lovely purple wildflower working its way through broken asphalt near the dumpsters. Haven’t a clue what it is, but I was struck by its glory in less-than-perfect surroundings.

Once more I was humbled. I’ve been complaining a lot lately about living here. I miss the mountains, I miss above ground running water, I miss civility on the road and in stores. I’m tired of dust storms and drought. But this is where I’m planted. It’s my choice to complain and wither or use what is available to me here and now and bloom.

I choose wildflowers.

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