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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.

What is worth making
given all
we have not found?

The ideas that sit
on this landscape
are disruptions, one by one.
Here another claim on eternity,
there a refusal.

Nothing we make
is worth keeping.
Yet we are makers of things,
that’s our conceit.

Understanding
is what’s there
when I’m not.
Sky sliding past.

As compulsive actors,
the challenge
worthy of our minds
is passivity.

I think
this is something

changing oneself
from mind
into matter.
A rock, into the hand,

does not grow.
It only
has divided