Spring Finally Blew In

Spring has finally blown in here in the south-central Rockies. I know that because the wildflowers in our restored native grassland yard have begun blooming–they don’t spend the energy making flowers unless their pollinators are out, and when that happens, it’s finally spring.


One of my favorite wildflowers is the ant money lupine in the photo above, an annual wildflower that only appears in years when wet spring snows soak its seeds thoroughly. In those flush years, ant money lupine sprouts by the hundreds in the high-desert hills around town, growing just a few inches tall but coloring whole areas with its blue-purple spikes of flowers, and attracting clouds of native bees so tiny that their hovering masses look like dust motes dancing in the sunshine. In this dry spring, I was delighted to find one ant money lupine plant sprouting in our front yard. This charming wildflower is a cousin of the tall perennial Russell lupines gardeners love. Lupines partner with cyanobacteria, microbes that live in nodules in the lupine roots, sipping on the sugar the plants make, as the microbes convert nitrogen from the air into a natural fertilizer that feeds their hosts. The little wildflower gets its name for its pea-like seeds, which harvester ants collect and stash like coins–only they’re edible, the most local of food.

The photo above is the wild drift of whitestem evening primrose blossoms just outside our bedroom door. Like ant money lupine, these annual wildflowers sprout in abundance only in years of generous snow. This spring’s snow has been much less than generous, but enough slid off our steep metal roof to form a drift outside our bedroom door and apparently soaked the soil sufficiently for the evening primrose seeds. Every evening a “drift” of their white, dusk-opening flowers unfurl, each flower lasting only until the sun hits it the next day, before wilting into a mass of sodden petals. (This morning, we counted 95 blossoms!) The white disks rotate slowly through the night, tracking the moon’s path, to reflect light and thus guide their night-flying pollinators, white-lined sphinx moths like the one below (which is sipping nectar from a daffodil).


(That wire-thin straw extending into the daffodil flower is the sphinx moth’s proboscis, a hollow tube of a tongue the moth uses to sip sugary fluid which fuels its hovering, hummingbird-like flight.)

I’m behind on news, I know, and I apologize. Last weekend was Colorado Art Ranch‘s seventh “Artposium,” a weekend devoted to talks and workshops by artists, writers, scientists, a Colorado Supreme Court Justice, musicians, and others, this time on the subject of water–how we use it in this arid region, what water has to say to us and what we can learn from it. It was a fascinating, inspiring, and jam-packed weekend. I taught a standing-room-only creative writing workshop, “Listening to the Flow of the River,” and also had the honor of participating in the final panel summing up the weekend. My brain is still digesting all I saw, heard, learned and experienced…

Richard’s platelet levels were up nicely in yesterday’s blood tests, so he started his five-day course of Temodar this morning. It seems very weird to be celebrating the beginning of his fourth round of chemotherapy, but here we are. It’s part of the new world of life with brain cancer. (And can it be any weirder than a world built on consuming oil, the liquified fossil remains of long-extinct plants, oil which is currently gushing from the floor of the Gulf of Mexico, fouling beaches, marshes, spreading on sub-tropical currents, and killing marine life? But I digress.) Richard was still feeling good enough today to work on my birthday present, the sculpture that will hold our mailbox. There he is in the photo below using the gantry (horizontal hand-powered crane) he designed for moving the boulders he works with, to lift the several-hundred pound block of sandstone that will serve as the base, down our front sidewalk. This shot is going to make his oncologist smile, I have no doubt.


In other news, the 33 Ideas Show at Denver International Airport that includes our “terraphilia” case (photo below) has been extended until the last week of August. So if you are traveling through DIA, take time to walk the sky bridge from the main terminal to Concourse A security and see the show. The cases line the moving sidewalk between the terminal and the security area, and the sky bridge is open to the public (it also boasts great views of the mountains). 

The case articulates ourconcept of terraphilia, “an intrinsic affection for and connection to the Earth and
its community of lives,” a word we coined to express what motivates our work, my writing and speaking, and Richard’s sculpture: the bond between our species and this living Earth, what Richard describes as “the notion that each of us is inextricably
connected to the whole world, and that a happy, well-adjusted human
being ought to have kind, loving feelings extending beyond the illusory
boundaries of our skin…”. As I said in the book proposal I’m working on, Terraphilia also describes our attitude toward life, the idea that we ought to acknowledge and recognize those “kind, loving feelings” in our daily habits, actions, and decisions.

Living in that loving way, every day, is what keeps me walking forward on this surreal journey when it’s a good thing that Richard is healthy enough to take a poison that nukes his bone marrow, because that same poison also nukes his brain cancer and gives him a chance at more years of wrestling boulders. Living in a loving way is also what makes it painful to know that the Gulf of Mexico is spewing oil because we haven’t figured out how to live as if our species’ terraphilia is more important than our need for money and things. It may hurt, but I’d rather feel the pain than harden my heart and shut my eyes. I don’t want to miss the ant money lupine and the whitestem evening primroses, the sounds of water or the voices of friends. So on I go, taking every step with my heart outstretched as if it were my hand…