Sunday, May 20, 2007

A nature walk

I am so often reminded lately of my sophomore year of high school, during which, since all of my best friends were of the "intellectual variety" (okay, so we were geeks!), we all signed up for the same honors classes so we could be together. We were assigned in our biology class at the beginning of the year a project which would comprise a significant portion of our final grade, and I, being the studious sort that I was, was consumed for months by the enormity of it. There were actually two components to the intensive nature study, selected from several options offered by our teacher. I chose to focus on the collection, preservation, and proper identification of area plants and insects, preferring them over birds because I thought they would be easier. Silly me! I still fondly recall (fondly, I say, now that I'm looking back over the distance of fifteen years) the months spent searching for unique plants. My mom and I would drive out into the desert to "go collecting", and often, simply driving through town, one or both of us could be heard to call out, "Wait! I saw something! Pull over! Go back!" I grew quite familiar with my Audubon field guides, and spent many late afternoons in the biology lab identifying plants and bugs.

Imagine my surprise when, years later, Darren expressed such delight in finding that I still had the entire, intact collection of plants I had gathered and identified in high school--he actually has a similar collection that he put together for fun while growing up in Texas! He has always been much more of a naturalist than me, encouraging me during our courtship to go on long hikes with him through the mountains and collecting minerals and plants on the weekends. I've always enjoyed it, but lacked the passion he demonstrated, which I always somewhat envied but never could quite understand. That is, until recently--when, much to my great pleasure, I rediscovered all those same familiar plants through the lens of my camera and noticed, for perhaps the first time, the amazingly beautiful intricacies they each displayed. It was as though an entirely new world had been presented to me, all of which was mine to capture and define through the images I chose to preserve.

I guess it's no big secret now that photographing the beauty of nature has become a great love of mine, but I love, too, that through the example of Darren and I, our children are also so very appreciative of their surroundings and the splendor of all of God's creation. They were just as happy to poke around in the desert on Friday afternoon as they were to play in the park. (Within safe boundaries, of course.) There were so many familiar old shrubs and flowers in bloom and it was a gorgeous day for taking pictures. Here are just a few of my desert favorites. I hope you enjoy the tour!

Chocolate Flower (Berlandiera lyrata):
These really do have the most delicious chocolate fragrance!
We're hoping to collect seeds to add to our native garden.

An unidentified variety of mint. Beautiful!

Desert Verbena (Verbena wrightii):

Black-Spine Prickly Pear (Opuntia macrocentra):
Aren't these flowers gorgeous?

Desert Bird of Paradise (Caesalpinia gilliesii):
This is one of my favorite desert shrubs.
We planted two hybrids in our garden,
but unfortunately, neither survived the winter.

Tulip Prickly Pear (Opuntia phaeacantha):
I think I'm just drawn to combinations of red and yellow.
It is, to me, absolutely beautiful.

Jimson Weed (Datura stramonium):
Highly hallucinogenic, but beautiful just the same.
These can be found in abundance along our highways this time of year.

Desert Stickleaf (Mentzelia pumila):

White Prickly Poppy (Argemone albiflora):
This one has a little visitor.
Can you see it?

Apache Plume (Fallugia paradoxa):
Here is one of its pretty little flowers...
...and some of its amazing seed heads.
Are these not just gorgeous?

And finally,

Texas skeletonplant (Lygodesmia texana):


Mrs Jackie Parkes MJ said...

Lovely flowers..we just love the great outdoors too!

Mom to Four said...

Melissa, youhave outdone yourself again! You have a wonderful gift at nature photography. Keep it up and share the results. We love it! It makes me want to hop on the next plane to New Mexico!

So you were the "studious," "intellectual type" too? Hee hee.

It is amamzign how our interexsts and appreciations grow and change over time. Fifteen years ago, I would have laughed at the thought of me posting a blog entry about a spittlebug. Go figure!

God bless. Have a happy afternoon.

Mom to Four said...

Sorry for all the typos. I am tired.