The Painted Hills unit of the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument is the most visited area of the park, but these days I think it is only because the hills have that ‘selfie worthy’ quality. I see folks with cell phones taking pictures of themselves against the beautiful backdrop. Very few look down to see the vibrant wildness offered at their feet.
On this day, nature is painting the hills with rare yellow wildflowers—golden bee plant (Cleome platycarpa) and John Day’s pincushion (Chaenactis nevii). The later is a sub-species that only grows here among the red mounds of clay. Because the fragile hills are protected, one cannot traverse the slopes to get a close look. But look down and, if you are attentive, you can see little yellow heads peeking out near the designated trail.
Circumstances have to be just right for this bloom to happen. The past few years of drought prevented the distinctive palette from forming. But this year spring rains finally materialized. Moisture opened the desert womb where seeds gestated and bore color—a kind of floral painting. I am mesmerized by contrasting yellow veins radiating between undulating hills of red-ocher and beige/white. A very sensual scene.
Our senses can be a doorway to heightened awareness if we do not filter the input. Energies swirl about our perceptual field, inviting us to experience the wonder of being alive. The painted hills really are an emanation of creative natural energy at work. Imagine all the causes and conditions that need to line up for this show to go on.
Now, look up from the screen and let your senses take in your present environment. What has nature painted? Imagine all the causes and conditions, immeasurable and sublime, until you contact infinity…and let the mind rest.