One of the beauties of flowers is their ephemeral qualities. Most flowers bloom only a few days or a week at most. If you don’t catch them at a certain time, they’re gone.
With all the moisture we’ve had this spring, this has been a banner year for flowers. One of my favorites is the wild iris (also known as purple flag), a more delicate and smaller version of our domesticated flower and one of the early blooming summer flowers. Whereas, in previous years, there may have been a patch here or there, two weeks ago I saw whole fields carpeted with wild iris (below). But this week already many of the iris are past their prime, the purple petals curling in on themselves, losing their luster as they slowly go to seed.
Flowers are fragile things to begin with, easily stomped by animal hooves or unseeing humans, their petals so thin it seems a good wind can carry them off. And yet, despite their fragility and impermanence, many creatures depend on them for sustenance. At the cabin, hummingbirds buzz the skies all day and into the night, poking their long snouts into the purple lupine and bluebells. And butterflies and bees also feed on the golden wallflowers and yellow cinquefoil.
At the cabin every week, I’m able to see clearly the cycles of life and death. In past years, I would hike a different trail each week and carry the memory of all the blooming flowers for weeks, long past when they would have died. But at the cabin I can see the changes as I return each week: the pasqueflowers that bloomed in May go to seed two weeks later (below), the columbine buds that appear one week in mid-June and next week are flowering (below). In two weeks, even the columbine will be a memory, although the great thing about living in Colorado is that flowers that bloom at lower altitudes in May appear at higher altitudes in July. After the lilacs die in Boulder in May, I can enjoy their smell and lushness in June in the mountain towns. After the columbines die in my yard, at 8500 feet, I’ll find them on my favorite hiking trails, at 9500 feet or above, in July and August.
And so I stretch summer out as much as I can. Because, as the flowers go, so goes summer.