I am hiking in the Badlands Wilderness east of Bend and witness a super bloom of Oregon Sunshine (Eriophyllum lanatum). This aster family daisy is widely distributed throughout the Pacific Northwest, so it is anything but rare. It is not unusual to observe a large number of specimens blooming in a small area. But I have never seen a sea of yellow like this—miles of flowers so thick you can barely recognize other species that are blooming at the same time.

For instance, the diminutive Shy Gilia (Gilia sinuata) is also making an appearance. Its little blue to lavender flowers sit atop slender stems rising from basal rosettes—like a beautiful stars shooting up from a splash of green. But you might not notice its tiny blossoms shyly peaking out from among the golden daisies. If I were not attentive, I would miss this lovely specimen as well. It is easy to be inured to the bright Sunshine and miss one of the most beautiful and elusive flowers in the desert.

It is interesting to reflect on the metaphor here. We can easily become so enamored with the obvious that we overlook the subtle. Oftentimes, it is what we do not see that is most important or inspiring. If we become habituated to the predominating (or dominating) color, we may forget to pay attention to what is right in front of us. We tend to discount what we don’t see as unimportant. If we really want to be inclusive, we have to stop and refocus, to notice our implicit bias toward one color or another.

I learn this lesson every time I walk among the wildflowers. I am frequently rediscovering an overlooked species that had been right in front of me. I unknowingly passed by because I did not have the eyes to see. It was hiding in my habitual way of seeing—my bias. If I am only comfortable identifying with what I am used to, I will not recognize the life offering me a different perspective, a new way of seeing. 

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