I am a wildflower stalker, albeit a haphazard one. My dedication falters when learning proper nomenclature. My mother started me on this path when I was a child. We hiked in the same hills where I now live –the Colorado Rockies — and before each hike she would load the nylon hunter orange drawstring backpack with sunscreen, sandwiches ,water bottles, army surplus rain ponchos and always, always the battered, thumbed wildflower guidebook. The sandwiches would be smashed and inedible by lunchtime but we weren’t allowed to complain. How could we with those views, these mountains, that meadow of flowers?
My mother taught me all the quaint names — bread and butter, monkshood, elephant pagoda, false sunflower and Indian paintbrush. We had to stop on each hike and peer at flowers and ponder their identification. Of course she was also teaching us reverence, but I only cottoned on to this as an adult. Now it’s karmic payback as my own kids suffer my abrupt roadside pullovers to snap a photo for later identification. In their minds, I think the needle of my eccentric scale is now well beyond unusual and has leaned into embarrassing.
But the bottom line is that my mother slowed me down and taught me how to look, really look and notice the ant on the stamen, or how the wind moved the leaves on a stem or how to be astonished by how many hues one blossom can capture. She developed my artists’s eye as we explored the natural world. Someday I will get to thank her.