This post is a long time coming. Seriously, I’ve been meaning to write it forever. The words have been in my head so long, I have no idea how to start.
This past spring has been a magical one for me. Last year I arrived at Canyonlands in June and missed most of the beautiful little flowers a desert springtime has to offer. Those that I did see I didn’t appreciate, as there was so much new and incredible that the tiny things blended into the larger picture. The only flower I can remember admiring is the globe mallow, a bright orange, late spring bloomer that was rampant in the area upon my arrival. Now I am admiring the globe mallow for a second time, as my eyes have been opened wide all spring long.
It was some time during my last week in Canyonlands that they all seemed to pop out of nowhere – conveniently timed to appear during my only 5 days of work and therefore my only 5 days not available to discover them. I first noticed the bright colors along the roadside, and nearly ran off the road (in a government vehicle no less) trying to get a better look. Desert flowers aren’t like flowers anywhere else. Viewing them from afar doesn’t do them justice, as their beauty comes from their intricacy.
They’re tiny – most of them the size of a fingernail or smaller. But if you have the chance to get close to them, you will find all the detail of a larger flower, and often twice the color.
These little flowers touch me in a way I haven’t really experienced before. I think it’s because these days beauty is something I value highly, and I think that it’s incredible that something so natural and breathtaking can be found not only in such a tiny package, but in such a harsh environment. Without much water to draw from these little flowers have to be resourceful and persevere. They determinately grow between rocks and amongst barren landscapes where nothing else – especially not of their color and detail – can survive. It’s a reminder to me that beauty is something you have to work at every day in order to attain, that it’s something that requires commitment. And when I think about the small joy coming across one of these flowers brings me, I realize that it’s something worth that commitment.
Some people will argue that beauty is fleeting as well, and that the short lifespan of these flowers speaks to that too. But I disagree. It’s a miracle in itself that these flowers are able to exist for a day, much less 10. And although to us their lifespan is short, everything is relative. Relative to the world our life is short too. And that’s why it’s crucial for us to spread our petals as wide and colorful as we can, soak up the sun, and radiate that warmth back in beauty to every person we meet. Then maybe they will take some joy in us, just like we do from the bright little flower in the rocks. And maybe they’ll be inspired to share their beauty too.
I think we can all take an important lesson from the flowers that grow in the desert: Life, like the canyonlands of southeast Utah or the high desert of Mesa Verde, is tough. It’s easy to stay wrapped in our seed in the cool ground. It’s hard work to spread roots in rocks, to grow petals with little water, to shine bright in one color when everything around you is another. But oh what a reward to see someone else squeal with delight upon discovering you.
Below are some pictures I’ve taken of my favorite desert flowers: