Shower of Joy

The snowpack was deep this year at Crater Lake. The delayed and lingering melt means wildflowers are revealing themselves later and with profusion. It is August and many species appear to be just waking up to greet the brief summer. They must bloom, become pollinated, and set seeds before the early freeze arrives. On this day, a passing thunderstorm drapes Lhao Rock with a frosty coating of hail—a harbinger of the more significant snows that arrive often in September.

Despite hail and thunder, everywhere I look I see abundant wildflowers— a delight to the eyes and nose of this botanical enthusiast. The somewhat pungent odor of sweaty feet wafts in the breeze, indicating the presence of Eriogonum pyrolifolium, a rather stinky member of the buckwheat family. The plant even received the common name “dirty socks” in honor of its olfactory presence. There are literal fields of the stuff this year along with Newberry’s knotweed, a herbaceous ground cover that turns bright red in the fall. 

Farther down the mountain, the trail that meanders through a spring called Castle Crest is framed by crimson red Lewis monkey flower, valerian, bistort, columbine, bog orchid, speedwell, monkshood, scarlett gilia, and many others. The spring flow is much stronger this year as it courses through the hillside, nurturing other plants, mosses, and shrubs. Tarn and I identify at least fifty floral species in bloom before we stop counting.

My herniated lumbar disc talks to me as we negotiate the trail through water flowing over and between broken stones. Overhead, black clouds loom offering a backdrop of thunder and spitting rain. We need to get down from this hillside saturated with water, a wonderful attractor of lightning. As I quicken my pace, the movement causes sharp pain in my back. But then we see a sphinx moth, a large species that looks like a small hummingbird, darting among the monkey flowers and we are transfixed for a moment, forgetting the weather above. Childlike joy descends like a shower of blessings.

If I was preoccupied with the storm and my pain, I would not experience the wonder of that moment. When we are overwhelmed by our thoughts or any drama in life, we miss the most precious experiences. What are we not seeing now?

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