In Bloom: ‘Pluck the day’ but not the wildflowers
Special to The Aspen Times
Our new Saturday feature for the summer, “In Bloom,” will feature each week a wildflower or variety of wildflowers that are prominent in the area at the time. Karin Teague, director of the Independence Pass Foundation (independencepass.org), is a 25-year resident of the Roaring Fork Valley and devoted student of its wildflowers.
Welcome to “In Bloom” and the world of wildflowers.
This weekly column will follow the flowers as they bloom in and around the greater Roaring Fork Valley and the mountains that surround us.
Thanks to varying geology, abundant snowfall and streams, and diverse habitats ranging from 6,000 to 14,000 feet in elevation, we are graced with an unusually bountiful number and variety of wildflowers that unfold for us throughout the summer.
This column will explore those flowers — some common, some supremely rare — and the many lessons they have to teach us: about strategies for survival, including in some of the harshest places on earth like the high alpine; about adapting to a changing environment; about working cooperatively with other plants and animals; and about the importance of plucking the day.
That’s right, “plucking” the day. Not “seizing” it.
It turns out the popular phrase, “carpe diem,” usually translated as “seize the day,” is in fact best translated as “pluck the day (for it is ripe).”
Moreover, the phrase is usually, and unfortunately, cut short. It should continue, “quam minimum credula postero”: “trusting as little as possible in tomorrow.”
What a wonderful phrase! There is so little we really know, or can possibly know, about tomorrow, beyond our own imaginations. It suggests that our energy and attention is best spent focusing on today, the day we actually inhabit, in all its richness, instead of distracting ourselves in dreams of a tomorrow that may not be as we dreamed, or even be at all.
It also captures perfectly, using botanical language no less, the lessons Blue Flax has to teach us. Blue Flax, or Linum lewisii, honoring the famed explorer Meriwether Lewis who collected the first specimen for science in 1806, is currently in bloom throughout our valley.
Equally at home roadside and in high mountain meadows, Blue Flax has delicate, saucer-shaped, brilliant blue flowers that sit atop tall, green stalks that sway in the breeze, attracting pollinators and people alike. And it blooms for exactly one day.
One day. That is the full extent of a Blue Flax flower’s time in the sun. Each morning, one or more buds on the plant’s strong stem open, reach for the sky, and beckon to butterflies. Some time after noon, its petals begin to wilt, and by evening they have fallen to the ground in a pile of blue confetti, as if to celebrate its short, sweet life.
Blue flax not only doesn’t trust in tomorrow, it eschews it entirely. “Today is all!” Blue Flax cries. What a privilege to bear witness to its one and only day! And what a beautiful reminder to us all to pluck the day … but not the flowers.
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