Grateful

blue-eyed mary
A clearing in the woods filled with blue-eyed mary.

I’ve passed this spot on a back road each spring for years. Looking down into a valley coursed by a winding stream I see what looks like a bluish haze just above the ground among the trees and in an open clearing, on both sides of the stream and reaching up the sides of the little valley, extending at least the length of a football field. I know the haze is a population of wildflowers. Wildflowers always call me to come and meet them, see their little faces and study their leaves, learn about their habits and habitats. No visit is complete without a full course of photos from every angle to document them, and to share the beauty that called me to that place.

blue-eyed mary
Seen from the road.

Even though I take this road intentionally to look at all the things I’ve found interesting and photographed from afar, each year I’ve found a reason not to stop and explore this little valley on foot, to see the details in that blue haze and interpret them to share in my own way.

Usually I’m on my way somewhere else and because I’m always late the reason is a lack of time. This can’t be explored in just a few minutes and a photo or two. This needs a walk down a hill and across a stream, and all around where the flowers grow, even walking partway up the other side of the valley. And once I start, I don’t know when to stop. I can’t be trusted to be aware of time.

One day last year I did have the time and my DSLR camera, but it was just before the diagnosis of my need for a hip replacement and stepping out of my car at the top of that slope I knew there was no way I could walk down without falling, or crawling. Crawling on gravel and bits of coal is not without its nicks and scrapes. I’ve done it. So I looked, and moved on.

blue-eyed mary
What I saw from the road.

This year I took the time. I’d run to the trail as the mist rose on a spring morning just to photograph what was there, and was on my way back home. I intentionally turned up that road taking a different way home than the usual, scanning the little valley for whatever it had to offer. I saw smaller colonies of these flowers, but remembered much more in other areas, then, finally, there it was. And conveniently a place to safely pull over and park on this two-lane back road and a sort of road down and into the area from off-road vehicles. I had no excuse.

blue-eyed mary
Perhaps the fog is still here.

LIttle wildflower-filled valleys like these are like timeless wonderlands. Scrappy slender trees mix with mature trees, fallen trunks tangle with wild grapevines and Virginia creeper vine, and the performance is set for wave after wave of blooming spectacles here and there in its own unique floodplain culture.

blue-eyed mary
Along the stream.

I waded the stream and came to my closeup of the flowers that at first looked like violas, but I identified as blue-eyed mary, four petals, two top in white and two bottom in blue, occasionally violet or deep pink.

blue-eyed mary
Closeup.

The sky was still overcast from the fog, but as I walked along the road and among the flowers, deciding on good vantage points and snapping photos here and there, the sun broke through the clouds and bands of bright and shadow moved over the little valley, illuminating the young leaves.

blue-eyed mary
Like mist among the trees.

But how to capture the full effect of the display? If I had had a bit of a ladder or a rock or stump to stand on I may have been able to capture it better, but the photo at the top captures the extent of it best. And the photo below captures the density.

blue-eyed mary
A field full.

Grateful

I am grateful for my new hip, remembering last year, considering the prospect of never being able to explore a wildflower field again, and having the time to take this year.

I am grateful for my new old car, without which I hadn’t been able to go anywhere earlier this year.

I am grateful for the equipment to capture this place in a way that I uniquely visualize.

I am grateful that there are such things in this world as this precious little valley and all its beauty.

I am grateful that I can share this, and that others see the beauty in it too.

I am grateful to all those who helped me arrive at this place over the past two years and more.

I have many, many other things to be grateful for, but as I walked my steps around this place, these were my thoughts.


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