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Geologically, a drive down Paradise Valley has it all. You got your Paleozoic limestone and Precambrian gneiss, “Chalk Cliffs” and volcanic plugs, petrified trees and blood red shale—so many phenomena that have nothing in common, except this place. Often overlooked at the northern end of this open-air gallery, opposite the eye-catching maws of Deep and Pine Creeks, reclines the Hogback. In the company of giants, the Hogback appeals for its approachability. We’ve walked the Hogback, three years in a row, on nearly the exact same date.

3/20/2016

3/22/2017

3/20/2018

It’s the time and place that I find the first flowers of the year.

Fewseed Draba

Incredibly, despite the energy expenditure of making flowers, this plant reproduces asexually—that is, it doesn’t produce pollen, it doesn’t offer anything to pollinators, and pollinators don’t offer anything to it. While this fact opens up all kinds of new questions (namely: what do the flowers do?), it helps to answer one.

Q: What pollinates the first flower of spring?
A: Nothing.

Rocky Mountain Douglasia

This cushion plant bears a close resemblance to flowers common to the high elevation timberline (the better known treeline, defined by cold, not heat)… moss campion certainly comes to mind. Douglasia is able to employ some of the same adaptations that assist survival on mountaintops to an opposite, but equally hostile, setting. This spot is unusually dry, with katabatic winds racing off the Yellowstone plateau, and well-drained mineral soil. The visible biomass of this plant is just the tip of the iceberg—its roots must reach many times further for water than its leaves for the sun.

These tiny flowers will get buried in a couple more snow falls, then quickly shrivel up and go to the wind. They will be forgotten in the sotted, florid rush of summer. But for now they carry the promise of all the life to come, they do it beautifully well, and that makes them larger than life.

as though it matters

escape in green

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I have been told
that you must never watch
a bird fly past the horizon or it will take
a small part of your soul with it
But what is the soul
if not the sum
of the flights
of a thousand birds?

–Marc Beaudin

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There are many things which we do not understand, things that are beyond us, and when we meet them in this life all we can do is to recognize their existence and let them alone. They possess rights here. –Chief Plenty Coups

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I alternate between thinking of the planet as home– dear and familiar, stone hearth and garden– and as a hard land of exile in which we are all sojourners. Today I favor the latter view. The word sojourner occurs often in the English Old Testament. It invokes a nomadic people’s sense of vagrancy, a praying people’s knowledge of estrangement, a thinking people’s intuition of loss: “for we are all strangers before thee, and sojourners, as were all our fathers: our days on the earth are as a shadow, and there is none abiding.”

–Annie Dillard

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Chaos and ancient Night, I come no spy
with purpose to explore or to disturb
the secrets of your realm, but
as my way
lies through your spacious empire up to light…

–Thoreau

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