Thursday, July 24, 2008

Merry Poppies

I’m doing more catch up blogs – this one stretching back to April. We somehow broke our drought in So Cal. over the winter. Perhaps the rain dances worked or at least people’s prayers because we had normal rain levels. And with the rain came the beautiful desert flowers. I took my first rode trip with my new hybrid, Harmony, out east of Los Angeles to the Antelope Valley. I’ve wanted to drive out there for years to see the wild poppies at the Antelope Valley Poppy Preserve, however, having an older car prevented me from wanting to travel out to the desert. Indigo, my old car, would have made it but it would have worn him down.

So off Harmony and I went going up the steep roads to finally getting to the stretch that takes you into the valley. It didn’t take much to see where the reserve lay because a great wall of glowing orange poppies stood on the horizon. It’s easy to believe that the preserve should be visible from space, the poppies so dazzling, especially against the arid, drab brown of the desert - as if the earth had been storing up all its energy for a dazzling fireworks display (or, in this case, earthworks).

Anticipating the wind, I brought a light sweatshirt and hat, but wow, it’s like being out in the middle of the ocean, wind blowing fast. I carefully parked my car in a less crowded spot to avoid getting a dent in my new car and off I went to the Visitor Center. I went on a Tuesday to avoid weekend crowds however the visitor center was packed, albeit it’s small, and I was amazed to see the crowd of every kind of person drawn like me to the desert to see the poppies.

I started from the left-side of the Visitor Center, gauging my path away from the crowds but where there still seemed to be poppy clusters. I didn’t have my digital camera then, regrettably, so I tried to be selective. Like everything else in nature, there are no two poppies that look alike. And then there are the beautiful, purple lupin lacing their way through the poppy clusters. I blew through my film in the first few hours. I think I loved the anomalies the best – the few yellow and white poppies mixed in with the fluorescent orange. I don’t know how they came to be there – why so many orange poppies and so few of the white and yellow - but I don’t need the why answered. I prefer the mystery. (Like I want to believe that rainbows are magical and mysterious not just refracted light… )

So I continued traipsing down the poppy path and yes I felt like Dorothy, lulled by the wavering poppies along the path. What amazed me most, considering how many tourists were there, was the total respect for the poppy fields. Everyone stuck to the path and didn’t step off, potentially damaging a poppy. And there wasn’t any trash spread anywhere. And there were no Disneyland sweepers to manage the mess. Just the wind. I did see one errant bag off a less traveled trail but who knows from where that came. Seeing the bag made me realize the lack of human trash anywhere else.

After I finished my film roll, I contemplated buying more from the gift shop but I decided not too. I wanted to stop obsessing about the perfect shot and focus on what was in front of me. I wanted to take in the view and remember it on my own. There’s something about sharing your photos with someone else but there’s also pleasure in having something all to yourself. So I forewent getting more photos. This time I began on the right-side of the Visitor Center which dazzled me more. The slopes were steeper but the views lovelier. There were times I thought, dang, I wish I took this photo. The afternoon sun brought out a deeper purple in the lupins. As I kept climbing up and up I thought, really, “I’m going to force myself way up there?” And then I remembered struggling up the Great Wall of China with my friend, Nancy, last January. It struck me, after a few heavy puffs, "I’m climbing up the Great Wall of Poppies!" This spurred me on to get to the summit where the greatest reward was sure to be found – the place where the hawks were circling. Reaching there, I looked down where they do, onto the beautiful valley. “Ah! Beautiful, quiet sanctuary! Now how do I get down, and fast since the park is closing in 40 minutes.” I wound around down to the valley, completely alone thinking, "there are no snakes, there are no snakes, really, there are no snakes." Yes, no snakes in the path - just rows and rows of beautiful poppies and bushes where warbling birds sang to each other. I walked on and on having to step over more poppies since they started taking over the trail. I felt I literally walked in an endless sea of poppies. I wished and not wished for an end in sight because the light began to fade.

Finally, I reached the parking lot and Harmony. Climbing into my car I paused. “Is that a dent in my car?” Yes. Not a large one but alas a dent with dark blue paint that matched the Pathfinder next me. I did my little CSI measurement of judging if their passenger door could dent my car. I determined it did. And then I left a note. The first time I’ve ever done so. Granted, the wind could have pushed out the door faster than the passenger could control. But why should I live with a dent caused by someone else? And by an SUV no less! So I left fuming out of the park, cursing the lack of consideration of some people! I had to get a hold on myself. I just witnessed a great gift of nature.

The Pathfinder people never called but I trust the Universe to right the situation. And I know when it’s time to get my car fixed, the money will be provided. I just have to stop wanting to be mad about it and to just remember the day I saw the Great Wall of Poppies.

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