“They tell me that you’ll lose your mind when you grow older. What they don’t tell you is that you won’t miss it much.”/Malcolm Cowley
The time has come for me to come out of the closet and confess. It is my duty to alert my faithful — albeit naïve — readers as to my true nature. My closest friends and my family have already found me out and I only hope that our shattered relationships can survive. I am not positive that I can, not after I announce that I am a practicing …
Wild flower admirer.
That doesn’t mean that I mince about with a limp wrist; I’ve merely taken an interest in wild flowers. I get excited in spring when I know that I’ll be able to see some wild buttercups on Eager Hill. They give me a thrill each year. When I come upon a hillside smothered in bright yellow balsam root, I feel excitement. When I emerge from a tangle of slide alder and discover a sunny bank strewn with Indian paint brush, like my friend Paul, I am likely to exclaim, “Wow!”
I know virtually nothing at all about the biology of flowers. I failed that class at school but I think I know petals, then, when I check, they turn out to be sepals. This must have been a misprint in my Flowers of the Rockies book. Stamens are the male parts of flowers, I learned, and then it gets personal. I’d rather stand back and admire…
In my youth, apart from the huge bunches of bluebells I used to collect for Mum, I didn’t acknowledge flowers. If I did see them, I didn’t demean myself by noticing them. Later, as I thrashed about in the mountains, trying to be a famous rock-gymnast, I began to take note of fossils and various formations of geology. That was all right for a guy.
When we first came to the East Kootenay, our male friends were all hunters, so we hunted; it seemed to be the natural thing to do: a male necessity. However, hunting is in the Fall and that’s when most of the wild flowers have given up the ghost for the year.
Spring and summer are different. On our way up to the rocks near Lumberton, we could not ignore the Calypso Slippers that peered at us beneath the trees and, way up in Boulder Creek, I can still recall discovering those waxy pyrolas, almost hidden under fallen trees.
But flowers are female things and they sneak up on a fellow, the way women do. Like Rita.
We were invited to her house one evening and she showed us her collection of colour slides. They were all of wild-flowers and the pictures grabbed me. Soon I was avidly making my own collection of pictures until I realized that it was difficult to do well and that I should have started years before. I was hooked though. Even being scorned by my neighbours as I tried to photograph the myriad dandelions in my lawn didn’t deter me.
Then Wendy rolled up from England. She was a wild flower enthusiast from Europe and knew well all the blossoms of the Alps and Pyrenees. She recognized every flower we showed her and was ecstatic at the extravagant display nature put on as we traversed the ridge between the Bear Lakes. She knew different names for the flowers but then, neither of us knew the Latin names that biologists have given them.
My ancient face wrinkles into a grin when I recall friend Axel having a fit when we were up on Lakit Mountain. He suddenly leaped to his feet and gambolled like a drunken puppet down the hillside warbling ‘The hills are alive with the sound of music’ and then fell flat on his face. According to George, I trotted down to Axel and helped him to his feet, muttering, “Oh, look! You’ve crushed some eriogonum,” then tidied the damaged flowers.
This, of course, is completely untrue, but I still remember the glorious late summer orange blossoms on the plants.