When I walk in wild places, my senses come alive. In nature, I come home to myself, because I am home. I am in my rightful place, no more and no less than the living breathing community of plants and wildlife. Sometimes I feel a hint of my own wild essence— a kind of joyful innocence that belongs to, and is, one with this natural world.
In wild places, magical moments appear if the mind is quiet and the eyes are open. Dewdrops on a spider's tapestry flashing like brilliant crystals in early morning sunlight, roly-poly quail babies scurrying into a thicket, or the kamikaze dive of a hummingbird. Sometimes, if you are lucky, as I was last month out at Pt. Reyes, some big magic may show up: in this case it was two large coyotes with beautiful winter coats feeding on a deer carcass. Nature's energy is fiery and it is peaceful; it is capricious and it is ordered. Prey and predator play out their destinies; plants grow together in communities and in relationship to insects, birds and other wildlife.
Spring in Nature’s wild places is a glorious experience— heady with the fragrances of wildflowers and tree blossoms. It is a brief window of beauty, too easy to miss. In Sonoma County the wildflower season started in March with calypso orchids and trillium, milkmaids, hounds tongue and buttercups. Now the coast iris, shooting stars. checkerbloom, and baby blue eyes have appeared; they will be followed soon by many more colorful beauties.
Last week the first pipevine swallowtail to appear in my garden flew by my head and headed straight for the brandegee sage where it competed with honeybees for the nectar. The heart-shaped foliage of the pipevine, this butterfly’s only larval food plant, is unfurling under the elderberry tree, carpeting the ground with food for this beautiful butterfly’s caterpillars. Hummingbirds are feasting on the abundant blossoms of pink-flowering currant, hummingbird sage, and other native salvias. Ceaonthus ‘Concha’ is covered with blossoms of the deepest blue; ‘Snow Flurry’ is in bud and will be covered with masses of white nectar-rich blossoms in another week.
By imitating nature, we can bring some of its wildness, joy and juice to our gardens. Offer a diversity of nectar plants to butterflies, bees, hummingbirds and other pollinators. Don’t forget to plant larval food plants for butterfly caterpillars. Provide bird habitat with trees and shrubs that produce seeds and fruit. Emphasize native plants. Walk your gardens, walk the local trails. Be prepared for magic.
Note: Hot spots for wildflowers in Marin County include Mt. Tamalpais, Mt. Burdell, Ring Mountain, Chimney Rock at Point Reyes, Abbots Lagoon and the Marin Headlands. In Sonoma County, try Annadel, Salt Point and Hood Mountain or the Coast trail from Shell Beach to Goat Rock.