June 09, 2020

Peaking Poppies In a Pandemic

We had a mini superbloom in the Antelope Valley this spring—a late bloom boom that managed to stay incredibly intact because of the coronavirus "safer at home" guidance.

Maybe I should've stayed home. Maybe I would've been "safer" there. But after weeks of having my calendar curtailed, I realized there was something that COVID-19 hadn't canceled—and that I missed very much.

Nature had continued—and, in fact, thrived—without us.

I just wanted to see it in person—not on a live webcam from the Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve's website, not from aerial photos or satellite images from space.

So, not knowing exactly where to go—where I could go, where I'd be allowed to go—I just drove to Lancaster, California in the direction of the state natural reserve, hoping to see a sign somewhere in the distance.

And, like last year, the Antelope Valley really delivered. I just drove with the orange straight ahead, which formed an artificial horizon in the foothills to help with wayfinding wayfarers.

The navigation was spot-on, it turned out—because I ended up on a dirt road with a stripe of orange cutting straight across it.

I was surrounded on both sides by the California poppy, the namesake of the poppy reserve that was closed due to COVID-19 but usually can be found in abundance outside the state park (in fact sometimes more so).

They were in full bloom on that April afternoon—a day in April I probably would've been trekking around the poppy fields anyway, had we not been advised to stay at home to stop the spread of the coronavirus.

I felt a little guilty for disobeying orders and maybe setting a bad example—but I also felt that my disobedience had been vindicated by the fact that this year's poppy bloom was different than any others I'd ever seen before.

It wasn't just the orange poppies, but also purple owl's cover and yellow fiddlenecks, goldfields, and monolopia...

...set against the backdrop of blue and white pointillism that only becomes clearer, the closer you get.

For a long time, mine was the only car on that dirt road—until perhaps my presence alerted another carload to the scene and solitude.

I drove out shortly after their arrival, once I'd gotten my fill.

But I didn't join the groups alongside the paved road that were also breaking quarantine. I didn't need people yet.

I just needed to bear witness to life going on without me—even from a distance, even from just the dirt road.

The flowers were pristine from not being trampled by the masses. And I wasn't going to be the one to trample them.

I wasn't going to tell anybody, either—not until they were already long gone.

Next wildflower season, maybe the world will be somewhat "back to normal." But this year, it kind of felt like I got to keep the wildflowers as my own little secret.

Related Posts:
Photo Essay: Poppies Peaking in Antelope Valley
The Most Orangey Orange I've Ever Seen
Photo Essay: Wildflowering at Poppy Peak

No comments:

Post a Comment