If only I'd had an epiphany, then everything would have been perfect. The thing with epiphanies, though, is that you have to be looking for something, following some metaphorical star in the East toward enlightenment, for enlightenment actually to happen. (Which doesn't mean that the enlightenment you get will be the one you were looking for, of course.) I wasn't looking for any enlightenment at all. I was just out for a
Seeing the same place in different seasons endears it to you like nothing else—it becomes a friend in a way, as you discover more and more about it. You learn its moods and celebrate its accomplishments—the lone flower that's turned into a patch, the fledglings grown to independence—and shake your head at its foibles:
|Galls on the leaves of scrub oak (Quercus turbinella) (I think)|
This is the first time I've seen the park in late summer, and it is lovely indeed. The day was a soft-focus one, with high "mare's-tail" clouds, some noncommittal thunderheads, and a breeze that wasn't quite all there. In the brief, vital weeks between monsoon rains and frost, the grasses have begun to bloom, especially the blue grama (Bouteloua gracilis) and what I suspect is an escaped pink muhly (Muhlenbergia capillaris), as have the wildflowers—southwestern paintbrush, sand verbena, bahia, mounding peppergrass, globemallow, broom snakeweed, spiny asters, and the unfortunately named but beautiful clammyweed.
|Red-whiskered clammyweed (Polanisia dodecandra)|
The spiky, tufty textures so characteristic of the southwest have softened and grown together, as if they've finally learned to write in cursive. They blend, they blur, they marry. I took one look at this scene and for the first time in my life wished that I were Piet Oudolf:
|Mounding peppergrass, globemallow, pink muhly (?), and blue grama grass (and who knows what else)|
Even in the haphazard breeze, the grasses were in full swing, sway, flutter, wave, dip, and bob. I kept blinking my eyes, before realizing that they weren't out of focus—the grasses were. That subtle, not-quite-constant motion made my camera's autofocus rebel altogether. Almost every wildflower I saw was veiled in grass; unless you looked to the junipers in the middle distance, or to the mountains a step beyond, it was impossible to find anything with clear outlines.
So when I encountered this Say's phoebe, it held me enchanted. Its muted colors against the impressionistic backdrop seemed to epitomize the day. Even the cholla it rested on looked tamed, softened by a vicarious gentleness.
Yes, well. Then the phoebe pounced. It had seen—I don't know what. A beetle? a cicada? Something big enough to put up a tussle, at any rate, because a fast and furious battle amidst a pillow of asters ensued. I think the phoebe won but wouldn't want to place any bets. The gentle shadings of its exterior clearly hide a well-defined strength and hunger, just as those vague, out-of-focus grasses disguise the landscape beneath them. The cholla may look tamed, but trust me, it isn't. And just try wading into those impressionistic, blurry textures in your soft-sided sneakers: in ten steps tops you will have encountered an all too well-defined prickly pear or yucca or anthill.
The sense of layered experience, of a vague exterior hiding something more clear-cut beneath, reminded me of the way that letting your focus on a quandary go soft, letting the winds of consciousness blow haphazardly, sometimes allows the solution to materialize like some craggy peak out of the fog, or a juniper from the grass—clear, definite against an open sky. I always think of the conscious mind as being well-defined, and the subconscious as nebulous and hard to pin down, but now I wonder if it isn't the reverse: the conscious mind is where all the vague, billowy stuff happens, whereas the subconscious holds hard, adamant truth. At any rate, my walk through the park would have been a perfect occasion for an epiphany, if only I'd been looking for one at the time.
|Globemallow, cholla, pink muhly (?), and blue grama|
But I wasn't.