Tulips, Swans and Snow Geese

IMG_4605Yesterday we took a trip to the tulip fields of Skagit Valley. This essay is my rather pensive after-thoughts, which you can skip and just enjoy the pictures!

Lovely layers of shape and color at the Roozengaarde display garden.

Lovely layers of shape and color at the Roozengaarde display garden.

Like re-reading a book, or watching a movie you’ve watched before, revisiting places can lead to very different experiences than previous visits. We are, after all, not the same person we were yesterday, or last week, or 10 years ago. Perhaps you’ve experienced the phenomena of returning to a place of your childhood and thinking, “Wow! I remember everything as being bigger!”, well, of course it was, you were littler! It’s all a matter of perspective in the moment.

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amazing how the mucky mud nourishes such a bounty of beauty!

My first trip to the tulip fields was too long ago to still have vivid memories of it. My second visit, 9 years ago, was with Mike after a doctor’s appointment in Anacortes. I was one year into 2 ½ years of being intensely ill with 24/7 nausea. Based on doctors’ predictions, I was learning to accept being nauseous might be my every day life from now on. The tulip fields were a haven of color, a playful respite for us from medical appointments and worry.

IMG_4633A few years later I went to see the blooms on my way home from visiting my good friend, and cousin, Shaun on San Juan Island. That trip was a landmark for me, driving myself after 2 ½ years of being too sick to drive. Initially it was not an easy trip to make, but 3 days of walks, chats, and sitting among spring wild flowers, listening to Shaun talk of her passion for “her” baby oak trees and the land she loves, I felt renewed and on the road to recovery. The tulip field visit was peaceful and calm (few people visiting that day) and symbolic of finding my way back to myself. (click to read more about Shaun the Oak Lady of San Juan Island)

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behind the display garden was fields of daffodils, which are still in bloom and dot the landscape with ‘fields of gold’, just as lovely as the tulips.

Yesterday’s trip was very different. A simple day trip, it was a compromise after canceling two attempts in the past month to go away for a weekend. I’ve not been feeling well, exhausted, probably from a reoccurrence of Epstein Barr virus, and in a lot of physical pain. Traveling has become challenging for me.

Our trip to the Tetons last year, and a California trip to my niece’s wedding the previous year, left me discouraged about future travel plans. By the return trips, the joy of the destination was lost in physical pain. Even a trip an hour from home results in stiff sore legs and sciatica pain, reaching our destination I can barely get out of the car. I say ‘we’ because I no longer drive an hour away by myself, my right foot in numb pain from neuropathy, and a torn meniscus in my right knee which gets worse when I drive, makes driving even short distances undesirable.

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At the Skagit Valley Food Co-op, a favorite place to shop, I bought Mike his chocolate Easter bunny, who visited the tulip fields with us!

Today’s trip to the tulip fields was a challenge, but I was determined to go, knowing that ‘getting out of Dodge’ was important for both Mike and I. And the blue skies were irresistible. By the time we arrived in Skagit Valley I was already grumpy about bodily pain and discomfort.  Hungry, we headed to Skagit Valley Food Coop where the deli was packed with folks on lunch breaks. After a car-picnic in a local city park, we were off to the fields.

IMG_4524The color was dazzling, the fields just beginning to burst forth in their vibrant, almost psychedelic rainbows of color. But I found myself more interested in the swans flying in numerous small flocks into a field just beyond the tulips. By the time they all landed there was a ‘super flock’ of hundreds.

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IMG_4558The workers picking tulips in the fields made me wonder what it must be like to live their work-a-day life of low pay, listening to their Spanish language radio songs, chatting among themselves as they worked side-by-side while tourist’s “oohed” and “aahed” over the flowers. And I wondered why some of them wore masks.

IMG_4578The big display field at “Tulip Town” had the most blooms, and people, but was off-limits to me, I could not walk the distance from car to the ‘entry point’. Over the years the tulip fields have become, out of necessity, a more managed tourist destination. I was able to take a few distant pictures, it reminded me of a surreal Peter Max style painting!

IMG_4604Roozengaarde display gardens were busy but not too crowded. There were enough people  it was not easy to sit and ‘soak’ in the color and beauty of the carefully laid out patterns of blooms, and for me it was not easy to keep walking.


IMG_4650As it turned out, the highlight of the day was not the tulips but the swarm of white birds we saw in the distance, moving as one, turning, banking, turning again. A graceful bird ballet. We followed them and found ourselves watching a massive flock of snow geese settle into a field.

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This close up photo shows only a small number of the Snow Geese. I took many videos of their noisy, moving feast.

One of my hoped for trips a month ago was to the Snow Geese Festival, which I’ve wanted to go to for years.  I was very grateful for this unexpected opportunity to watch, in awe, literally thousands of birds in such a feeding frenzy as to hardly pay notice to the cluster of human “gawkers” who gathered. (see video below to hear and watch the snow geese)

We left the Snow Geese, went into La Conner, which was quiet and ‘sleepy’, stores beginning to close at 5:00. After a simple supper at a picnic table on the river we started the trip back to the (very packed out!) evening ferry.

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The display garden has many different bulb flowers, loved this highly scented hyacinth display!

It was not the predictable fields of vivid color that will stay in my memory of this day, nor did I feel the peacefulness of previous trips to the fields, it’s the ‘chance’ events of the day – watching hundreds of swans in flight, seeing thousands of Snow Geese swarm, land, feed, even watching the field workers, the real energy behind the surreal bonanza of tulip bloom each year.  It was a good day. Of course I wish was not in pain.  (and I wish Abby had not gotten sick.)  There is a sadness knowing such a simple day trip was so physically uncomfortable.  I’m learning to accept a life that stays closer to home.  As I look at the woods out the window and the bouquet of tulips we have from ‘our’ local tulip field at Red Dog Farm, I am grateful home is a lovely place to be – and stay.

Happy Easter all! IMG_4634

For more “Eastery”  posts from past years, you can read about, and see pictures of, eggs and bunnies at these links:

Egg EnchantmentA Season of CelebrationHare Hare Everywhere

 

Celebrating Cycles

Hellebores are a lovely blooming plant that seem to bridge winter to spring

Hellebores are a lovely blooming plant that seems to bridge the transition from winter to spring

March is a month of transitions for Mother Nature, and like humans often are at times of change, she seems unable to make up her mind…should it be spring? No, let’s have a little more winter! Two weekends ago the buds of the flowering current outside my bedroom window were swelling each day with hot pink, ready to burst open. Now, with temperatures in the low 30s at night, and staying chilly and cool all day, they seem frozen in time, waiting for the announcement – SPRING IS HERE!  The two wind storms we had recently seemed to be Nature’s spring cleaning, bringing down trees, branches, flooding and cleansing rivers and creeks, and creating ponds and streams where there were none! Now maybe she is ready for spring!

Already gone, crocus offer an early pollen treat to bees.

Already gone, crocuses offered an early pollen treat to bees.

March is also a month of celebrations. Past years I’ve written about the joy of early blooming flowers (Primrose Cheer, Pulmonaria), the celebrations of International Women’s Day, the birthday of Girl Scouts, and the many spiritual celebrations of the season (A Season of Celebrations, a Season of Forgiveness).

A sign of Nuture's consistencies, I take photos of the same blooms year after year, here our early bloom "Christmas" rhode, which blooms early March

A sign of Nature’s consistencies, I photograph the same blooms year after year, such as our early blooming “Christmas” rhododendron

Celebrations and transitions.  Nature seems both predictable and un-predictable with her annual cycles. No matter what the season, we often make comments of doubt…”will spring ever come?“… “will this rain ever stop?” or  “will this drought ever end?“. Yet even with the dramatic impacts of climate change causing unpredictable shifts in previously predictable seasonal changes…the seasons still change. The world so far keeps turning on its axis, keeps orbiting around the sun, and, triggered by the changes in light, plants, animals, insects, and probably humans in ways we’ve lost touch with, respond with the beginning of new cycles of light.

Pink and yellow seem to be the colors of early spring, with forsythia joining the daffodils as bits of sunny yellow.

Pink and yellow seem to be the colors of early spring, with forsythia joining the daffodils as bits of sunny yellow.

I’ve always wondered why we don’t celebrate the New Year in spring, rather than January 1, which here in the northern hemisphere is the ‘dead’ of winter, and in the southern hemisphere, the middle of summer.  Spring and fall are the times of transitions, the times of new beginnings or endings.  In Ayurveda those two seasons are recognized as a time of change and movement, having definite impact on human health and well-being.

Another plant waiting to burst forth is domestic Bleeding Heart, this one in our new little "chicken coop" garden, safe from deer who munched it last year.

Another plant waiting to burst forth is domestic Bleeding Heart, this one in our new little “chicken coop” garden, safe from deer who munched it last year.

Change and celebration.  We celebrate life changes we intentionally plan in our lives – births, weddings, graduations, new jobs, retirement, and we honor with celebration historic events, auspicious religious dates, etc. When the unpredictable, and often unwanted, transitions occur, we try to cope and make sense of them through celebrations, we might “celebrate” a divorce, our recovery from a serious disease, the death of a loved one (which we call a “celebration of life”, yet we are acknowledging and honoring both their transition and our own life change).

In this month of Mother Nature’s transitions and new beginnings, I suggestion we join her as she ‘celebrates’ with bright colored spring blooms, rainbows on a stormy day, bird courting songs and new births.  It might seem a time of unknown social and political unrest, you might be going through a personal and unpredictable challenge, but it is all part of our human life cycle here on this amazing little planet. Such times of unrest have occurred before, will occur again, yet we “keep on truck’n”.  It is easy to focus on that which is uncertain, yet by focusing on the certainty of Nature’s cycles, we are reminded of our own cycles, personally and collectively.PumanariaConsider this an invitation to celebrate life and light this month! You have much to choose from – St. Patrick’s Day, the Spring equinox, Easter, Holi (the Hindu celebration of color and lights), or whatever you embrace as your own celebration of transition! In celebration we learn to cope, come back to our center, embrace the inevitableness of change, and remember that, like Nature, we keep on going, cycle after cycle.

 

To view more spring flowers check out some of my pages:

Garden Flowers

Wild Flowers