A few days ago, before I was inoculated with the most recent variation of a "viral death scourge," Ella and I went on a hike at my neighbors property. Since that time, I have developed a dry hacking cough and a three day headache, but then I digress...
We are so lucky that there is short loop trail that I can backpack Ella up, let her out at the top and help her walk "by self" all the way down. Since I am a kind and gentle mommy, I will wait another year before forcing her to walk the circuit both ways. Plus, by then, she will be approaching 40 lbs and I'm not going to carry her chunky carcass up the hill any more. The hike is about 35-40 minutes tops and Wyatt is already a seasoned trouper.
From the top of the ridges there are fabulous views of the valley, and the just blooming wildflowers are an added bonus. All of my little colorful spring-time friends were peeking out from the annual grasses shouting, "Hey! Nice to see ya. How are you this year?" I guess I have imaginary conversations with the plants while we are out among the elements.
I feel it's my duty to teach Ella the names of the plants. I figure I'll give my 2 year old a break since I only expect her to learn the common name for each species this year. After she turns three I'll start drilling her with the scientific names, which are in Latin. I know, I'm generous that way.
Seeing as I have a degree in botany with specialization in plant systematic, I figured I should take some specific floral pictures and roll the Latin names around in my brain, so that when I ever work again it will look like I have been practicing. I've been a botanist since I graduated collage and worked for the past 14 years in consulting. With the housing economy destroyed, I am among the riff-raff of the unemployed. But then again, there could never be a better time not to work since my kids are so little. I am just fortunate we can survive without the extra income. Enough of my endless, senseless and mindless prattling...
On to the hike:
Black sage (Saliva melifera) dominated chaparral covers the southeastern slope of hillside. That's the scruffy looking olive green stuff above the trees. The blue oaks (Quercus douglasii) in gray, have yet to leaf out and the live oaks (Quercus agrifolia) keep their shining green patina all year long.
Indian paint brush (Castilleja foliolosa) in the Scrophulariacea, is one of the first spring bloomers which is found in openings in the chaparral.
Lacepod (Thysanocarphus lacinatus) is a little annual in the "Mustard Family" that already has bloomed and made seeds for next year. They're quick like that. The purple flower is wild hyacinth (Dichelostema capitatum), a native bulb.
These little soldiers are miniature Miner's lettuce (Montia perfoliata). They form armys on the steep sloping hillsides where thousands of their ranks grow annually.
This slope is nearly vertical from the trail. All I had to do was stand and shoot for this photograph. They were literally staring me in the face!
This little delicate beauty is padres shooting star (Dodecatheon clevelandii ssp. sanctarum). These are one of the first flowers to emerge once the rains begin and are sadly the first to disappear.
Lastly, here are a pair of wild hyacinth, in the "Lily Family," that are leaning over due to the weight of their heavy blossoms.
As we walked down the trail, I held Ella's hand while we talked about the plants. I hesitated for just the briefest of moments to consider a trio of mushrooms that were located in the middle of the trail. Immediately, Ella said to me, "Piture dat Maw Maw. Piture mushwroom."
A little sparkle lit in my eye at her astute comment. She is so on to me. Without even saying a word she knew what I was thinking. When I was looking at the mushrooms I did not stop walking, I just slowed almost imperceptibly and looked down. But that was enough for her to notice the difference and look for a reason why.
Some days these little kids amaze me with their depth of perception. As parents, we just have to be listening and paying attention to know the extent to which our children are aware. It really reinforces that no matter what you are doing, your kids absorb you. Your words, your actions, your thoughts. My husband always says, "They are our replacement models." How right he is...
They learn the positive with the negative, the dark and the light, and the yin with the yang. However, on this day, I am glad I had a moment where I know my daughter was absorbing nature (a definite positive) from me and with me, at a primitive level, and that alone is a comforting feeling.