The west is ablaze. The wildflowers in California are ablaze with wildflowers, not with wildfires but flowers. The blooms along the west coast are so intense they can be seen from space! But the long drought is also over in the nearby high desert of the Pinion mountains of northern Nevada.
Around seven on Friday morning, the dogs and I hiked up the mountain trail a few hundred yards behind our home. It had been several weeks since we had last climbed the path. Consequently, the fragrance of the sage, the rarely seen Indian Brush hiding behind the sage were unexpected treats.
Before we get to the paint brush, a scene we usually see as we hike is a winding dirt path with desiccated vegetation: Drab, colorless and stark land. Exactly what we expect in the desert.
But Friday morning, we saw these beauties peeking behind the sage brush, a few yards later, a more developed version of these beautiful Indian Paint Brush wildflowers.
But it was the vast profusion of purple wildflowers when we approached the stream, about a third of the way up the mountain, that stopped me. Unfortunately, my photographer friend Almita was not with me to photograph the carpet of purple adorning the wide fields on either side of the trail. That purple is so vivid it saturates the air, as if the color rises far above the ground, a virtual purple carpet.
Laughing to myself, because I knew precisely what Almita would say about this astounding display: "I think it pisses God off if you walk by the color purple in a field somewhere and don't notice it." Indeed, how can someone continue on without drinking in, relishing, even reveling in that astounding color?
The first time she said this I was stunned since Almita does not speak with epithets, ever. Noting my evident surprise, she chuckled and asked, "Didn't you read The Color Purple by Alice Walker? I love that book...and that statement." I had not read the book, but remembered the story well from the movie where Whoppi Goldberg and Oprah Winfrey made their debuts.
After some research on the context of the phrase in the book I never read, I think I understand just why Alice Walker used those exact words. The main character is a young black woman named Celie, memorably played in the movie by a young Whoppi Goldberg. Celie was a slave who had endured about every dreadful thing possible for a woman, a human being. But, Walker admonishes her readers, none of our horror, pain, betrayal, sorrow or losses are acceptable excuses for turning our backs to the created beauty placed in front of us, here and now.
My life and some of the people in it have taught me that not all of us are capable of heeding the sudden breakthroughs of unexpected loveliness in this world. I have come to believe that it is grace which grants the capacity to do so. Here are a few reasons why I say this:
On another early morning many years ago, while out running in Houston, I dropped to my knees at the splendor of the sunrise. Alone on the woodsy path, I laughed at the joy I felt, should not be feeling, because my life was in tatters. My husband had just announced that he wanted a divorce, and yet here I was on my knees in praise of a God I claimed I did not believe in.
A decade and a half later, now driving through a western Massachusetts Fall, on the way to work, I pulled off the road to gape in awe at the splendor of the foliage, astonishing splendor unnoticed by so many as they raced past the spectacular display. Those maple trees seemed to shout, "Look at me, a red you will see nowhere else but on me!"
I understand now why Almita memorized that wonderful phrase, "I think it pisses God off if you walk by the color purple in a field somewhere and don't notice it." Here is the actual context of a letter written by Celie about her best friend, a woman named Shrug.
Here's the thing, say Shrug. The thing I believe. God is inside you and inside everybody else. You come into the world with God. But only them that search for it find it. And sometime it just manifest itself even if you not looking, or don't know what you looking for.... She say, my first step from the old white man was trees. Then air. Then birds. Then other people. But one day I was sitting quiet and feeling like a motherless child, which I was, when it came to me: that feeling of being part of everything, not separate at all. I knew that if I cut a tree, my arm would bleed. And I laughed and cried and run all around the house. I knew just what it was. In fact, when it happen, you can't miss it...
Oh, she say, God love all them feelings. That's some of the best stuff God did....Listen God love everything you love and a mess of stuff you don't. But more than anything, God loves admiration.
You sayin' God vain? I ast.
Nah, God not vain, she say. Just wanting to share a good thing. I think it pisses God off if you walk by the color purple in a field somewhere and don't notice it.