We won’t be making the trip this year. For though I am sure we could do it following the current mantra for drive-in worship services—“come as you are, but stay in your car”—it would still be hard to justify it as an “essential journey,” never mind that we’ve driven out there almost every year at this time that I can remember.
Like thousands of others, we’ve gone, of course, to see the wildflowers. For truly, not even an alpine meadow with a singing and twirling nun can rival the beauty of a springtime Texas rolling hill blanketed in bluebonnets, Indian Paintbrushes, and soon thereafter, Black-Eyed Susans.
But the journey is also a pilgrimage of sorts, or the very least, our version of the “Trip to Bounty.” For though I never actually lived there, the little town of Chappell Hill, Texas, named for some of my forebears, has a strong ancestral pull on me, if only for the fact that it’s the one place on earth where I don’t have to actually spell out my name for others to get it right.
What’s more, we’ve gone not just to reconnect with a family spot, but to renew our relationship with nature itself. For there is something downright healing about simply breathing in the fresh air, gazing on blue-flowered hillsides that look like pools of water, and remembering that man may have made the cities, but God made the country indeed.
Fortunately, we have taken enough pictures of bluebonnets—with and without various children, grandkids, and other family members sitting in the midst of them—to remind us of what we’re missing. More than just that, however, even without making our annual pilgrimage, I know that the flowers are there.
Coronavirus or not, those bluebonnets, or more specifically, the lupinus texensis, are still pushing their petals upward, resembling the bonnets wore by the pioneer women who long ago saw them.
Those Indian paintbrushes or castilleja, notoriously unpredictable each year, are still flushed with selenium that some found to be an effective treatment for rheumatism and the Ojibwe tribe used to make their hair glossy and full bodied. (Too late for some of us.)
And those rudbeckia hirta, daisy-like with a dark center, will continue to lend their cheerful contribution to the explosion of colors that come when the winter is finally done and summer is knocking on the doors.
All of which is enough to remind me that even when I can’t see Him, God is at work in this world. And for every virus there is a vine somewhere blooming on a hillside, despite the blight that may be elsewhere. For every opportunity lost to this season of solitude there will be a new one waiting in the future. And for every stressful situation knowing that God is in control can give us a peace that can surpass even our ability to understand and to comprehend what’s happening to us.
I’ll miss the trip. But whether I gaze on them or not, I am grateful that those wildflowers will still bear a magnificent witness to the glory of God, not just in Chappell Hill but all across Texas and other places as well.
Here’s hoping I can do the same.