Monday, April 25, 2011

What to Blue in Texas

Texas is not Washington, D.C. That in itself is not a fair comparison since one is a state and the other a city but it doesn't stop one from competing with the other across all kinds of issues, events and pursuits. D.C. usually gets the trump card in most debates simply because it is the nation's capital and one of, it not the most powerful city in the world but let's take it down a few notches and discuss something really simple, pretty and unique. Flowers. In Texas it is not cherry blossoms but blue bonnets that hold the same place in the hearts and minds of the citizenry and perform the same function as their erstwhile cousins back east. There is a big difference, however, in how each is enjoyed by those who travel up to great distances to see them. And there is some interesting ironies surrounding the ones down in Texas, too. "Bonnet" comes from the shape of the petals which reminded early discoverers of the shape of the sun bonnet pioneer women wore at the time. The flowers are more purplish than blue, anyway, but when seen in great numbers stretching across the horizon they do indeed have more of a bluish tint to them. Before the more popular name was adopted they were known as "buffalo clover." The blue bonnet is an "annual" flower which begins to bloom in late March and reaches its peak in mid-April before slowly fading out by mid- to late May. Texas does have winters and cold weather so the first sighting of blue bonnets growing wild in fields and along highways is something greatly anticipated by one and all in the area. Just as the National Cherry Blossom festival is in mid-March, the annual Bluebonnet Festival takes up the entire month of April in Ennis, Texas, hardly 30 minutes south of Dallas on I-45. Here at Ennis people from Dallas and Houston come together for a common ritual known all over the state: the annual Easter photo opportunity. Small children especially but full grown adults flock to the flowering fields to sit, squat and lie face down, propped up on their elbows to mark the passage of another year of memories and good living. Even the family pet gets in on the history in the making. The irony is that as the state flower it is illegal to pick them. Thousands of people tramp through them, smashing them flat for the sake of the family photo but they're not allowed to take any home which adds to the other trick of the season - finding that sweet spot in the season when the flowers are in full bloom but not totally trampled by others looking for the best patches with the most gorgeous backgrounds! Just like in D.C. when the flowers die off it signals the beginning of the Summer but for a few weeks in the Spring the weather is beautiful, the flowers warm and inviting. For those who don't know it's good, very good, to be in Texas in April. There is simply no better way to watch "Li'l Emma" grow up than from her first picture in the bluebonnet fields through Easter whites, adolescence, puberty through to her own family right up to one more with "Gramma Em" before moving on to the great beyond. Gotta go.

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