If ever a wild flower makes me think of you, it’s because you bloom in the most adverse conditions, showering light and color where a carpet of grief has smothered me. It’s because no matter what careless community service butcher has hacked you to the ground you rise again, triumphant, where your pieces were left to rot. You rise, predictably, like an indomitable spirit. Your seeds germinate in hostile soil after being frozen solid on the surface of winter soil.
If ever a wild flower makes me think of you, it’s because we dress this poor soil together in bright robes and majestic umbels until it shines with dignity, with laughter, and growls with a hunger to reach the moon. It’s because your gift isn’t the greatest pride but the greatest humility through which the most honest love illuminates the darkest paths. It’s because your complex mind is housed in a clean spirit with roots that gather nutrients from nothing.
If ever a wild flower makes me think of you, it’s because there is no flower more valiant, more strong, more beautiful, or more noble than the flower that opens when nothing else is willing, where no other signs of life prosper. It’s because you are luminous and I know how fortunate I am to collide with you in this dusty gutter of weeds.
It started as an unconscious activity and has become a conscious game I play whenever I’m in a car. I try to name all the flowers and plants I recognize on the roadsides. I’m not scientific – common names are all I’m looking for. It’s a way to acknowledge all the truly scrappy plants that survive in rigorous conditions: drought, exhaust fumes, road dust, hot direct sun with reflected pavement, punishing rains, and one long fight for resources with the other plants trying to scrabble a living on the roadside too.
Centranthus ruber. Red valerian. Jupiter’s Beard. I consistently try to call this flower verbena. It’s driving me nuts. So perhaps if I repeat it’s different names enough times right now I will remember it next time. Valerian. Red Valerian. See it on the roadside? I love having this in my garden. I also see forsythia and fennel here.
All of these pictures were taken between Sausalito and San Francisco this past weekend. The most stunning of all the flowers I spotted were these larger than human sized lupines.
I would very much like to know what that darker yellow flower is near the top of the picture. My guess is either some kind of toadflax or mimulus. Anyone have a different guess? I wish I could go back to this exact spot, stop the car, and go take a close up picture.
Here is a complete list of all the flowers (and herbs) I spotted on this trip to San Francisco: fennel, picnicking hobos, giant lupines, bottlebrush, California poppies, forsythia, wallflowers, cala lillies, ice plants, trash, red valerian, small pale yellow lupines, small purple lupines, Queen Anne’s lace, and vetch.