Free Birds or Jailbirds?

I’m taking a “real time” break from recounting my recent trip through southern India. I’ll get back to cruising the backwaters of Kerala in my next post, but for now, it’s “BLUEBONNET TIME” in Texas!

This was one of the few fields we saw this year. Most of the other flowers were confined to the roadside.

My favorite patches are those with Indian Paintbrush mixed in.

I accidentally hit the “Record” button on the camera here when I realized I was standing in a fire ant bed. If I had posted it, I would have had to “BLEEP!” it!

My native home state has very few things that are pleasing to me. I could likely count them on the foot of a three-toed sloth. But certainly in that count would be the Texas State Flower, the bluebonnet. Its intense deep blue color that blankets the rolling hills delights the eye while its delicate powdery fragrance wafts through rolled-down windows as we drive the country roads in search of our favorite fields. It’s something I look forward to and try not to miss each April.

Texans are chomping at the COVID bit to be “liberated.” I consider this plight to be a bit ironic since I sat at my 14-day quarantine camp in the Lake Whitney Army COE park upon return from India and watched the bass boats line up at the boat ramp. Country tunes blared from the in-dash radios, Texas state flags a-wavin’ as they waited their turn to launch. I could imagine I could hear “Last one to the fishin’ hole is a dirty stinkin’ lib!”

No, “stay-at-home” is not something any Texan does well, let alone when the government is telling them to do so. Empathy and slogans such as “We are all in this together!” are not a strong suit in a state that regularly threatens succession.

The area where my family calls “home” is a Fast Food Freeway, so if you are like many Texans who don’t mind drive-thru dining, life is not that much different here in Central Texas. State parks opened up on Monday for Day Use (limit 5 per gathering.) In order to limit in-person exposure, Day Use passes must be purchased online. According to TPWD on my Twitter feed, the site crashed under the load following the opening announcement.

My favorite 4 mile hike/bike path nearby is my saving grace.

It’s a combination of paved and unpaved rail trails (the old Missouri-Kansas-Texas Railroad, which was known as MKT or the Katy,) as well as a few new winding mountain bike trails.

Someone took a little creative license here. Maybe too much time on their hands…

No danger of encroachment here…

Or here.

We now have idiots standing shoulder to shoulder in the streets protesting the lockdown, because “Nobody’s gonna take-a-way my freedoms!” Well, yeah, I guess one could say death is the ultimate freedom. And now the Orange A-hole in the White House is tweeting out calls for insurrection against the restrictions put in place to save lives. So the dam is breaking…faster in some areas than others. We are watching science unfold right in front of us. Fifty percent of us feel strain on our patience, (“Why should we hafta stay at home if they don’t?”) while the other 50% never gave credence to science in the first place.

I have started an excel spreadsheet based on the Texas Human Health and Services website to track the number of reported cases in Texas (currently 20,196 and climbing.) In addition to the state cases, I am also charting Dallas County and the two neighboring local counties. While the numbers are no doubt inaccurate (because I have not heard of one single testing site within a 30 mile radius) I figure it’s still a good baseline. I won’t relax my own self-imposed restrictions until the numbers start to decline, regardless of what the governor says.

I have to hand it to the old farm…it does give up some nice sunsets. I swear, this photo was untouched.

A Social Distancing Weenie Roast with my niece Hannah using 6 ft long roasting sticks. 😉

Leave it to Texas-based H.E.B. to come through in a pinch.

I have become a “COVID cliche'” baking homemade banana bread.

Recently, I needed to go out to forage for food. Mom hadn’t been out of the house since my brother left for Mexico just before the COVID wildfire began to rage. So I asked her to come along for the ride. We would do some “drive thru dining” at the local BBQ restaurant, and take the long way home in hopes of seeing some drive-by bluebonnets. I loaded up the car with 2 kinds of hand sanitizer, a can of Lysol spray, a roll of paper towels, rubber gloves from my RV, and two homemade masks made from bandanas and hair ties.  I had also found two remaining “N95-rated” work masks my brother left behind, still in a box wrapped in plastic as a “break only in case of emergency.”

While it felt so good to be behind the wheel again after two weeks, seeing the verdant green hills and valleys of the local farms roll by our window, I also felt like I was doing something ”wrong.” On one hand, it was a feeling of sheer delight, like a couple of free birds fleeing a cage door accidentally left open. On the other hand, we felt like jailbirds, checking the rear view mirrors, hoping to cover some distance before someone discovered we had escaped. There have been so many mixed messages throughout this whole thing, particularly for us who follow the news from multiple parts of the country, seeing as how “home is where you park it” and all.

Mom and I decided to make good use of our stay-at-home order and resurrect the garden, overgrown in years past.

Not bad for 91 years young, huh??

We don’t have access to a tiller, so the ground work is done by sweat equity. (In other words, my local gym is closed.)

We planted 18 tomato plants of 3 different varieties. Mom says to plant marigolds near your tomato plants, as it helps stave off insects.

In addition to tomatoes, we have planted a mix of seeds and seedlings: lettuce, kale, spinach, collards, swiss chard, onions, radishes, cucumbers, squash, and cantaloupe.

This is the smaller of the raised beds. It contains tomato plants, with lettuce and radishes soon to make their appearance, hopefully!

The bluebonnets were uncharacteristically scarce this season. While there were a few fields, most of the usual spots lay bare. The Annual Bluebonnet Festival was cancelled this year, and the Welcome Center where maps are typically distributed is boarded up. Blue and white decorative directional signs pointing to the most prolific fields are noticeably absent. And those rolling blue hills now look like a freshly mowed lawn. Maybe they were mowed early this year since the festival was cancelled. While there were still a few rows along the roadside, most of the undulating waves of blue were just not there this year.

Maybe we were too early, or a little too late to see the typically vast proliferation. Or maybe they never came up at all this year. But it seemed like a fitting metaphor for 2020.

My favorite philosopher and poet, Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “The Earth laughs in flowers.” Who could blame Mother Nature if she has lost a bit of her sense of humor this year…

21 thoughts on “Free Birds or Jailbirds?

  1. Thank you, Suzanne. I always look forward to your posts! My mother was from Texas. She settled in California after the war and never looked back. However, what she missed, even though California has its own beautiful lupine and poppies, were the “bluebonnets of Texas.” I can hear her say it now, and I can see her smiling as she remembered the with fondness the “bluebonnets of Texas.”

  2. Looking at your mom on the lawn mower explains a lot. Here in MA we have a rare republican governor, he not only cares for his constituents, but he has an active brain and listens to and works with the experts to address this crisis. Deede and I being a decade more experienced than you we are very eligible for a life changing experience from the virus. That ride is probably a month away from us, but we look forward to being able to take a run to the coast or up to the mountains. Thanks for sharing the flowers which you did see, they are awesome. Be safe and enjoy mom.

  3. Thanks for sharing the bluebonnets. My parents lived in Texas during the first 2 years of their marriage while my dad was in the service. She always talked about the bluebonnets! Looks like you were able to find plants and seeds for your garden. Here in Illinois they are hard to find. I have visions of people fighting over the last tomato plants at the garden centers!

  4. Only 18 tomato plants? My father used to grow tomato plants so dense you couldnt get into the middle of the patch. Wouldnt have wanted to, there were lots of snakes in there feasting on the mice that came to eat the bugs! Another trick is to slide a 16d nail partway into the ground besides each stalk. it keeps the cutworms off. Does nothing for the deer though!
    I read this on another RV’rs blog
    An Appropriate Analogy
    “The curve is flattening, we can start lifting restrictions now =
    The parachute has slowed our rate of descent, we can take
    it off now!”

  5. “Orange A-hole in the White House” Wow! There’s a lot of us who voted for him and still believe in him. I cringe to think how any of the other wanabees would have handled this.
    Too bad an otherwise beautiful post had to be diluted with the insertion of a politically biased reference. It’s beneath you.

    • Ed, you right wing morons are wallowing in a quagmire of ineptitude. It’s her blog, she has the right to say whatever she wants, guaranteed by the 1st Amendment. You probably believe that those protesters demanding freedom from being ‘shut in’, waving their confederate flags, and wielding arms and swords, have the right also. Doing it peacefully without weapons is protest, with elements of death they become nothing more than terrorists. I suppose you also don’t cotton well to those who protest abortion rights, albeit their guarantee to do so, as permitted by the Constitution. You gotta love Republican double standards. Haha, and I’m a registered republican. That’ll soon change though.

    • Hi there, I have heard much about you guys over the years and I’m thinking one might say the same thing considering all the friendship and fellowship you guys have all shared and this makes me wonder why anyone would come up with a comment like this ….

      Tensions are high now. And regardless of your political stance and considering how even the Republicans might be wishing for a war hero (who isn’t one according to this challenged individual) and how anyone Democrat or Republican now should be praying for someone like John McCain to be in place of this simpleton.

      Still the biggest issue at hand I believe is how half a nation became trapped in the jaws of such a powerful cult. How can you love someone, live with someone, dine with someone and talk into the night with someone yet scream at them when they speak unkindly of your (named) cult leader? If it wasn’t any more clear how much power a cult has over an individual, I now leave you with some of the more famous lines from our current leader and those that continue to inspire half a nation:

      I never understood wind.
      You know, I know
      windmills very much.
      I have studied it
      better than anybody
      else. It’s very expensive.
      They are made in China
      and Germany mostly.
      —Very few made here, almost none,
      but they are manufactured, tremendous
      —if you are into this—
      tremendous fumes. Gases are
      spewing into the atmosphere. You know
      we have a world

      So the world
      is tiny
      compared to the universe.
      So tremendous, tremendous
      amount of fumes and everything.
      You talk about
      the carbon footprint
      — fumes are spewing into the air.
      Right? Spewing.
      Whether it’s in China,
      Germany, it’s going into the air.
      It’s our air
      their air
      everything — right?

      A windmill will kill many bald eagles.
      After a certain number
      they make you turn the windmill off.
      That is true.
      —By the way
      they make you turn it off.
      And yet, if you killed one
      they put you in jail.
      That is OK.

      You want to see a bird graveyard?
      You just go.
      Take a look.
      A bird graveyard.
      Go under a windmill someday,
      you’ll see
      more birds
      than you’ve ever seen
      in your life.

      ~ D. Trump

      • I always laugh real hard when Donald speaks, he’s hilariously inarticulate! And Suzanne, sorry to say I always roll my eyes when someone mentions the beauty of Bluebonnets (lived in TX for 28 yrs, all wildflowers are equally beautiful). So on that note, I’m going to the kitchen right now to make Chocolate Buckwheat Cake! Thanks for the nudge 🙂

    • It continues to amaze me that after 3+ years of this there is anyone left that could still support Trump or, for that matter, Republicans.

      Is it simply that those that continue to believe live totally in the echo chamber of Fox, Hannity, Limbaugh, Beck or worse Alex Jones and QAnon?

      He is by any objective measure unfit to manage a checking account much less the country. His corruption is manifest. His lies are limitless. His mental illness is transparent and on display almost daily.

      He literally embodies the seven deadly sins and yet evangelicals use him because they see him as a means to an end. Republicans use him and fear his base.

      I’m not sure when it began, perhaps with Grover Norquist and the 94 house but their goal was to “shrink government small enough to drown it in the bathtub”. They’ve made great headway and when it can’t function well due to that destruction Republicans smugly say “government is the problem”. Most assuredly the Republican version of government is the problem.

      Trump is a nightmare version of a national leader. Given his corrupt and ignorant mishandling of this pandemic, it’s uncertain how many of us will live long enough to see his end.

  6. If you have on your phone it has a button bottom right corner that will show you covid19 totals. Scroll down and their is a interactive map, county by county, all the states.

  7. As you know, Suzanne, Marti and I like Texas although we only visit and do so in the spring and fall. The bluebonnets are indeed spectacular especially in combinations with the myriad other wildflowers. Stay safe. Keep Mom safe. This will be over someday and the political epidemic can be addressed in November. See you again one day soon we hope!

  8. I too, have noticed the lack of Bluebonnets this year. But those rows of paper goods made me green with envy! Still can’t get any up here, although I’m not desperate yet.
    I’ve been back at work for 2 weeks now (we’re classified as “essential” as we sell bottles to people brewing hand sanitizer- I think most are looking to make a quick buck and are making it in their garages-buyer beware!)
    Beautiful sunset pic of the old homestead. And once again, your mom is nothing short of a treasure!

  9. We were living in our RV in Colorado when this whole thing blew up. Well we are now holed up at our house in the high desert of New Mexico…..beautiful place but trying to garden here is really futile unless you have a greenhouse (I have tried and failed miserably). Love your garden!

  10. The bluebonnet photos in this post, Suzanne, are a welcome breath of fresh air. I also feel happy for you that you have been able to share a sense of connection with your family while hunkered down at home, tilling the land and planting seeds of hope for a prosperous tomorrow. Certainly, I admire your mom’s fortitude for maneuvering that lawn mower like a boss!

    Your words “mixed messages” pretty much defines the current atmosphere determining the climate for the entirety of our country and its citizens. As we all, each and every one of us, flail through this seemingly never ending sea of cognitive dissonance, my hope is that the weeks and months ahead will bring clarity, wisdom and compassion for all.

  11. I have never been in Texas for the Bluebonnets and would have liked to have seen them. On Ajo (AZ 86) we have masses of prickly poppies in the median and on the sides of the road. For some reason, maintenance got out there and mowed them all down before they could set seed. I’m pretty disappointed by that. We didn’t see the masses of Mexican Poppies this year, the cactus have been good, however. I’ve enjoyed India, and the Bluebonnets – keep writing!

  12. Will I ever be able to see those famous bluebonnets in person? I certainly hope so. That sunset is simply stunning. I can see you working hard at that garden. We are ready to plant but it is still too cold out so my house is filled with pots and seedlings. We intend to plant veggies in our large flower pots this year as well as our garden plot. Why not? I can always share the excess with the food bank. I truly appreciate getting a real live update as I was preparing my nagging que pasa email to you. Your Mom looks great from what I can see as does Hannah. Fortunately you are far enough away from a neighbor that will call the police on you for having company in your yard even if you are social distancing. People here are not allowed to see parents, siblings etc., well some do but that is their choice. Your Covid bread looks great.

    Stay safe and hugs to all.

  13. There are certainly worse places you could be stuck. Being with family and tending to the garden does not sound too bad. Love the bluebonnets, we have never seen them in person but would love to someday!

  14. Well, Well, Well!
    Let me say this, We are all cracked pots. Some of us have just fallen into little pieces.
    To Suzanne ‘s Brother Don- Shame on you ….Don’t you know its sinful to enter into a war of wits with an unarmed man?
    As for the blue bonnets…. I have driven into the Big Bend of Texas in the middle of the night, under a full moon, to bluebonnets so thick that from a distance it looked like the ground was covered in snow! Too beautiful to even photograph! And nowhere like that but Texas!!! Pull out a memory like that, right now, and delight in it.
    We are blessed.

  15. The bluebonnets are lovely though and you and your Mom are a FORCE! At least YOUR Mom is paying attention to the directions and not being whiny!

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