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04 May, 2011


April along the Columbia is the time of blooms. Apples and cherries that were bare grey bones weeks before grow buds, the buds swell into pink and white balls, and then they start to reveal their inner selves as compact potential relaxes, opens its arms to the sun and bees, and reveals the actual flower. Before long, beehives filling with young and honey, fruit beginning to form, the petals will let go their grip on the mothership, fluttering in the spring breeze, snowing.

Just like snow, their beauty varies with perspective. With the sun at our back, or with dark at theirs, they gleam white or bright pink. Sunbeams traveling through their thinness can release a glow. Coming at you out of a bright sky, the same flower flakes can look dark. Look at the petals (still treebound) in this photo: the ones below look bright, while those above with sky behind are dark. Same petals, similar level of contrast, completely different perception. Color can be apparent, not absolute.

The intricacies of a single petal laying in the grass can pull in my eyes to orbit for a while, taking in tiny beauties. Sumptuous surfaces like only a fresh flower has, wavy edges, folds like tiny mountain ranges, subtle colors invisible even a few feet further away.

Or, the thousands. Dressing the wind, revealing it's body. Twinkles and constellations covering the ground. Drifts of nothing but flowers nestled in the roots of their mothers, soon to settle and melt back into her. 

This all unfolds over weeks, starting low and south, working its way higher and norther. Trees closest to the river's dammed valley start first not just because of the elevation, but the water moderating winter's last chilly breaths. Driving north from Wenatchee, past Orondo, toward the apple depots lining the river at all those other towns, turns into a trip back in time. Orchards adrift in spent flowers, trees adorned with open blossoms, crews on ladders thinning burgeoning buds, branches studded with buds just awakening, and further on, last winter holding on. The same thing happens, even more suddenly, as you head up a side valley, or even move from the south slope of a hill to its north.

Later, the trees will sculpt cherries and apples, fruit-forms manifold and delightful. Like the flowers, their beauty will be individual and collective, multiplied by perspective and nature's fractal variations.

I hope you have the time to appreciate it. Slowly; the blur from a car is nice in its way, but take the time to stop. Inhale. Take a bite and chew slowly like a cow with nowhere in particular to go. Stroke the petal gently, tug the fruit free. Gaze at the orchard, stare at the apple of your eye. Revel in this northwest beauty.

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