Steph and I happened to have hit up Point Reyes during wildflower season. We didn't intentionally plan to be there during that time...it just sort of worked out that way. It was a bonus we both very much enjoyed. Although now that I think about it, this was never actually articulated by Stephanie. I may be simply projecting my own feelings of the experience onto her. But whatever. I'm sure it's not that far from the truth...within a mile a so at the least.
Side note: I've been lucky in my travels of late to experience wildflower season unexpectedly...from our trip to Perth, Western Australia to Anza-Borrego. Not sure why the Universe is giving me this gift but I gladly accept it!
I hadn't brushed up on my wildflower identification skills in a while and was a bit rusty. I even got a few things wrong (mistakenly identifying foxglove as hollyhock for some damn reason) but Steph was quite forgiving. And she should have been considering she can't tell the difference between poison oak and California blackberry which at least I can.
If I didn't know what the heck I was looking at, it didn't matter (or I pretended it didn't matter). I simply snapped a few photos of the flower and when we got back to our little cottage, looked them up in my National Audubon Society's Field Guide to California (which is not the best resource but after a long day of hiking and a few vodka-lemonades will do the trick in a pinch).
The fun part was when Steph and I would quiz each other about our wildflower learnings (as well as other floral beauties I pointed out to her) on the trail. "Remember what this one is called?" she would ask. Or I'd say to her, "So, do you recall what is so special about this one?" Things we would never utter in casual conversation flew out of our mouths like a Charlie Sheen diatribe--likes disturbed areas, it's hairier than the other one, eat it and you'll wish you didn't have a stomach, I can never remember if it's cow's parsnip or cow's parsley, there's a leaf opposite the other, poppies love me.
Whatever the field guide couldn't tell me, I looked up on the internet when I got home. Most of the time, I'm fine with not being able to identify something out in "the wild" (in fact, I'm happy just to be able to know the difference between a hawk and an ant), but for some reason, not knowing the names of wildflowers drives me up the wall. On the other hand, I remind myself that I've forgotten how to spell the last name of my boyfriend in high school...and I knew him for three years! I sure as heck shouldn't put that much pressure on myself when it comes to flowers I see maybe once every year or so. Right?
There are still a few flowers I haven't been able to nail down yet, but a little time and distance has allowed me to stop fretting over their names, scientific or common, and just go with "that's a pretty wildflower we saw in Point Reyes." It's the same approach I take to handling questions about my car. When I make an oil change appointment and they ask, "What model car do you have?" I simply reply, "It's a white car." Or if I'm asked, "What kind of engine do you have?" I reply, "I have a convertible." You get the point.
I'm pretty sure with even more time and distance, I'll be happy just to be able to recall the trip at all. Now that I'm 40, I'm proud of myself when I remember what channel Modern Family is on. Regardless, I hope I never forget the feeling that comes with stepping smack dab into a vast space filled with wildflowers or spying tiny hints of new life that is everywhere in late winter and early spring. It is a feeling that reminds me that underneath it all, after long winters or nasty droughts, there are always--always--hidden gems hovering beneath the surface, waiting for the right moment to pop up, dazzle our senses, steal the spotlight, and leave us longing, and wishing, for more. It is the feeling of hope alive. It is the feeling of being alive.
And that, I never want to forget.