The flower is quite striking as it rises from heart-shaped basal leaves to exhibit beautiful clusters of purple bells. Snow Queen (Veronica regina-nivalis) is one of the earliest flowers to bloom in the year. Barely waiting for the snow to retreat, I have seen it flash its beautiful color as early as January! Of course, it does not make an appearance on the east side of the Cascades; it is more adapted to lower elevations on the wetter western side. I see this particular patch of blossoms while hiking a trail near Mckenzie Bridge.

The flower takes me by surprise, revealing itself on a cold February day while Mckenzie River mist rises around me. I breathe in the moisture and feel my lungs saying, “Wow, I don’t get this experience the desert!” Micro water droplets bathe my tissues and I feel strangely odd (two words that oddly go together). Although my heart chooses desert and arid summers in high elevation mountains, it is nice to feel dampness for a change.

The moisture startles my body just like the flower teases my eyes with unexpected beauty for this time of year. Actually, most of my days are peppered with the unexpected. The mind only sees through the eyes of expected phenomena when it thinks the world exists in graspable form; something we can hold and control. When Buddha experienced his awakening I imagine he entered the unexpected universe. He woke up from the dream of a self dreaming a world based on habit patterns in the mind. Once he saw the habits fall away, his universe expanded. Everything became fresh and unconditioned by anything. 

This is what I aspire to and why I am compelled to walk in nature, watching my mental assumptions melt in the unexpected beauty revealed at every turn. Why does Snow Queen bloom when others are asleep? Maybe because no one expects it. May we all practice blooming when we least expect, surprising everyone we meet with boundless compassion.


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