Sunday, May 29, 2011


Ask anyone who knows me and they’ll tell you how claustrophobic I am. Though my therapist friend Judith insists, as she always does putting a positive spin on things, that I just need more space than most people. Still I had to be drugged to take an MRI, and I opt for staircases over elevators any day.
Michael calls me affectionately “squirrelly” . I’m not sure exactly what he means. Is he referring to my evasive nature? Or my nuttiness?
Here on the farm space is at a premium. Our house is tiny, with no room-of-one’s- own for either of us, which can make winter uncomfortably tight. With the lingering winter skies which can be so bitterly low compounding the fact. In spring and summer our lives expand on to our vast decks and expansive lawns spreading out through the orchard right up to the edge of the swamp. Life gets a little yin and yang around here as we expand and contract our realm with the seasons.
My working realm also expands greatly this time of year. I garden about 15 acres all together for my 4 clients and if you count the 7 acres at home, well, you get the picture. There is a lot of ground to cover in a week making more like a Serengeti ungulate than a squirrel. Some days I wish I could soar over it all like an observant raptor instead.
The term “ spaced out” is probably foreign to my parents generation. I’m sure it arose from the drug-induce mind-altering state know as the 70s. It is a floaty state hard to explain, between meditation and aggravation, activity and sloth. No place to anchor, nothing to understand. I felt it when I floated on my back in the briny Caribbean off the coast of Nicaragua in March. I feel it sometimes in the morning before my first cup of tea, when my mind lies numb in my cranium.
Now I don’t want to live my life in a spaced out state. I love the rush of activity, the sparkle of curiosity, the solid silence of meditation. But sometimes , just sometimes, I like to space out, to vanish.
And sometimes that involves getting away.
On Saturday I used the last of my energy from a very exhausting week to rocket myself out of the lowlands. With my caffeinated foot hard to the pedal I sped over the rain splattered, green saturated Cascades and down into the inland deserts of Washington. There wasn’t enough time to think, so I headed to a favorite spot: Umptanum Canyon.
The valley was filled with bird song and wildflowers, the skies blue. The treeless landscape let my busy mind wander, dissipate, finding the relaxing space it needed.
And then I could enjoy, plainly and simply enjoy, the beautiful flowers, so casually, so artfully strewn through the valley. Each time I go there the I see new flowers. The season has been cool and wet many early flowers still bloomed though the valley was filled with Memorial day hikers and campers.

Lithospermum ruderale

Prunus virginiana, the chokecherry native to vast expanses of North America.

Some grasses are already turning autumnal colors as the soils dry out on the slopes above the Umptanum Creek.

Nothing helps the the spacing out process better than lazily moving clods in a blue sky and a nap.

This remarkable little Mimulus gave this inch worm a place to nap out of the sun.

This garden worthy combination of Hackelia diffusa, spreading stickseed, and Lupinus sericeus, silky lupine, is prevalent throughout the canyon.

My favorite Northwest desert shrub Pushia tridentata, bitterbrush, a rose relative, has a beautiful fragrance taht is not at all rosy.

After leaving the canyon I drove around to Umptanum Ridge. Wind whipped and spartan offering vast open views even with the clouds moving in. It takes austerity to a new level. I hardly spaced out though, so attracted to all the wild flowers that defiantly break out of this hard volcanic soil and into the harsh winds.

Among the many species of lupin here, the stony-ground lupin, Lupinus saxosa sood out with it's dense flower heads.

There were still vernal pools pocking the dry ridge where common camas, Cammasia quamash, grow.

There were also several species of l phlox in bloom, this one is Phlox speciosa, showy phlox, which it certainly is.

Thompson's paintbrush, Castilleja thompsonii not yet in bloom but lovely none the less

I had to hold this large flowered brodiaea, Triteleia grandiflora var. grandiflora, against the raging winds.


Any of you who have been reading this blog for a while know I have a fondness fro clovers, Trifolium ssp. This is Trifolium macrocephalum the large heade clover, one of our natives, unfortunately not in bloom.

In some ways I’ve always lived on that wind swept ridge. I feels more like home than the lush Snoqualmie Valley. But when I returned home to our freshly tilled field and new greenhouse I knew I wouldn’t be able to space out any more. It’s time to plant the vegetables and flowers. But somewhere in side I have put the expansive Umptanum Ridge , the roar of it’s wind, the intimacy of the wildflowers and when I need a moment to space out, I’m going to close my eyes and go there.