Spring, and wildflowers, are the best thing about Texas.
For now, let’s not debate the relative merits of BBQ, SxSW, our beaches, monuments, fine universities, or major cities. While each of those topics can get an argument started, the Texas wildflowers seem to bring out the best in everyone.
Every year, Chris and I go for a drive out from Houston on a sunny Saturday. This past weekend, the flowers were at peak. Guided by a fabulous map from www.lone-star.net/wildflowers, we set out from Houston. Our route took us out US290 to Chappell Hill, Brenham, and Burton; down through Round Top and over to LaGrange; and then back via Lafayette, Industry, and Bellville. Most of the day was spent on the back roads, or “Farm-to-Market” roads as they are known here, between little ol’ Texas towns.
We witnessed a springtime ritual that goes back to the dawn of photography, certainly — perhaps even to the dawn of painting. Parents dress up their adorable toddlers in their Easter finery, take them for a long, exhausting drive to find the perfect patch of bluebonnets, and then plop them down for the quintessential Texas photo-op. Everybody who has ever had a camera and a kid has done this. The children dressed in bright blue, or even better, a blue floral print, are effectively camouflaged in the billowing sea of blue flowers.
In fact, these photo-seeking families cause huge traffic hazards where ordinarily you could probably sit in the middle of the road and have a cold drink between cars that pass by. Brakes slam on, the car abruptly veers onto the shoulder. No emergency here, just a family capturing their annual bluebonnet portraits. The fields are full of parents, grandparents, toddling children, and couples young and old. The appeal of this ritual is universal. We saw all ages, colors, sizes, shapes, united in the quest of wildflower photos.
It’s also completely appropriate to wax and gush about the beauty of nature. Hungry urbanites will go looking for flowers in the spring, even if they have nothing else to do with nature the rest of the year. The flowers are EVERYWHERE — in meadows, in highway medians, along the roadsides. It has to be good for you to be surrounded with beauty for a day, in the presence of happy people having a good time, doing what they enjoy, with people they love. A field full of flowers is a wonderful reminder of peace and abundance. The sight changes you.
This year, I shared my wildflower quest with the world, via social media. I hadn’t really planned to — it just happened. I posted a link to the lone-star.net map on Twitter, and got picked up by USWildflowers.com. Although Chris has a wonderful Nikon digital camera, we took most of our photos with our smartphones. I was able to chronicle our trip in real time by sending the photos and captions via text message, and posting them on Tweetphoto, Twitter, Facebook, and Flickr. (You can view the entire album of 20 photos here.) Snapping, texting, tweeting: I felt like a travel writer!
My updates from the road are only interesting to — well, people who are interested. However, via social media, you can find people who are interested in anything you are. As of this morning, almost 26,000 photos with the tag “Texas Wildflowers” have been uploaded to Flickr! I found out (too late) that a friend of ours was in Industry as we passed through; and we received several suggestions of good BBQ places when I tweeted that our favorite roadhouse in LaGrange had closed. Being connected to the larger world helped to enhance our experience. Connecting in the digital world did not take us out of the present, embodied experience. Strangers snapped photos of other strangers, swapping cameras and smiles, under the influence of intoxicating floral scents and dazzling colors. People come together around shared interests.
Shared interests brings us back to the Feldenkrais Method. Devotees of this form of movement education, which gently and effectively improves “body intelligence” to reduce pain and improve skills, are every bit as rabid as wildflower hunters. Some are there with a specific goal in mind (“make sure she keeps her hat on in the picture” for the flower children, or “get my shoulder to stop hurting” for the movers). Some are there for pure pleasure, and some can’t help but share their experience with you. Both groups are known for being curious, for “pulling off the road” to stop and notice the fascinating and precious details that add wonder, meaning, and joy to life. Watch out for the traffic whizzing by. Some folks don’t slow down, and they don’t know what they miss.
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