A few months ago, I wrote about the desert phenomenon known as the Superbloom, happening in Death Valley this year. I’d hoped that my obsession about the Superbloom would leave me once I’d written about it, but the thought of working with these plants and meditating with them while making flower essences, just wouldn’t leave me. I felt called to go there, but struggled with finding a way to make it happen. Finally my dear friend Julie said something so obvious I was stunned that it hadn’t occurred to me: “Why don’t you hire a guide?”
It seems now in retrospect that as soon as I gave myself permission to ask for help with this, everything fell into place. Within moments of initiating a search I’d found Death Valley Jim, who actually turned out to be the perfect guide for this trip. I asked Julie if she would join me. Jim was available on our projected dates, flights were arranged, and accommodations booked.
It turns out the fastest way to Death Valley is through Vegas. I remain most likely the only human to travel through Las Vegas, and perhaps the state of Nevada, without gambling. My gamble was on the trip itself, and I left that table a clear winner. Over a two day period, Julie and I made ten flower essences, I took over eight hundred photos (I’m a bit of a shutterbug), and we made a new friend in our guide. Most importantly, for me this was a true journey of the soul.
The desert and its plants offer lessons on resilience, patience, and endurance. The lessons of the Superbloom plants in particular speak of the additional importance of timing -- waiting for the right circumstances –- before blooming. It has taken years and catastrophic flash flooding for the seeds of these plants to be shaken loose from their rest deep within the soil. Yet, despite the seeming devastation of some of the flood areas, beauty shines forth. There is a reason why people speak of the desert as being a place of purification: the silence, vastness and solitude all encourage introspection. The sun burns away every ounce of moisture from the very rocks themselves, leaving behind a particular allure scored into the stones through trial and tribulation. The lessons in the desert in springtime, particularly in a superbloom year, include the wisdom that through the most difficult hardships, beauty is visible for those who choose to seek it, and so too, is joy.
The plants were eager to work with us. Over the two days we spent in meditation with these flowers, the message was repeated loudly and often: “We’re so glad you came! We’re so happy someone noticed us! We’re so thrilled to share what we’ve learned!” To say that it was a remarkable experience would be a very great understatement of truth.
Our guide, Death Valley Jim, is an amazing guy. He’s authored several books on the Mojave and has spent the better part of the past decade exploring the desert. He has two websites; the one I found him on focuses on his tours. I didn’t even know he had another site until he asked me if I’d looked at his wildflower guide, found on his main site. He was intrigued by what we wanted to do, and we were all in agreement that we could do this while honoring Jim’s “leave no trace” philosophy. The flower essences made during this trip were all done without harm to the plants, much in the same way one would make a flower essence of Pink Lady’s Slipper or any other endangered plant, so the plants will re-seed. Jim was great about finding us out-of-the-way places where the flowers were still in bloom. His help in identifying the plants themselves was invaluable.
That first day Julie and I made three flower essences. While waiting for our meal during our lunch break, Julie noticed a hummingbird flying around the plants on the restaurant’s patio and wondered about its symbolism as a totem. The hummingbird represents joy and symbolizes accomplishing that which seems impossible. It’s not until this moment, as I typed those words, that I realized just how accurate that is for me. I’d felt like this idea of making flower essences out of superbloom plants was impossible. How would I get there? How would I know where to go? Who would go with me? Once I opened myself to the possibility, it all fell into place. Hummingbird’s medicine is herbal, specifically working with flowers for healing, to draw from the flowers their essence to make medicine. Was it a coincidence to see one in the desert, in the middle of a flower essence making trip?
As we travel our paths in life, certain signposts show up along the way. I think they are always there, but sometimes we may not be focused enough to notice them. In our first location, Jim noticed that the Amargosa River, usually underground except for two locations, was actually still flowing above ground, almost six months after the flash flooding of last fall, in a place normally dry. Its water continues to nourish the plants we worked with our first day in the desert, especially the field of baby desert trumpets that carpeted the area, traveling halfway up the mountain. Both the water flowing above ground and observing the hummingbird were signposts. Over the two day period we spent on our trip there were many others, some too personal to mention here.
Day two we made seven essences over a six-hour stretch. Never underestimate the determination of a dedicated guide, two herbalists, and the plants themselves, who were eager to work with us! As I meditated with the Fremont’s Pincushion, I realized why I’d flown two thousand miles to be with these plants: their message was both potent and personal. They were the plants that had called to me; they were the plants I need most to work with at this point in my life. Standing in a field of these flowers, stretching out in all directions as far as I could see, I felt completely supported by these gentle beings and humbled. I felt the flower essence as deeply cleansing and opening the heart and power chakras, spreading downward to firmly ground me to the earth while offering endless support, tapping into infinity.
There were also lessons of community and independence. Within each of the ten plants ran a deep sense of joy in simply being alive and in bloom. I am truly grateful to the plants, to Julie Yalowchuk Gray of Jules Jewels for joining me, and our new friend and guide, Death Valley Jim, for making this pipedream a reality. For anyone reading this who may experience a similar kind of calling, when an idea takes hold and just won’t shake loose, I encourage you to step into it, ask for help and open to the possibilities that exist when stepping out of your comfort zone. The gifts are truly worth the effort.
1 Death Valley and Mojave Desert tours: www.deathvalleyjim.com
2 Hummingbird totem reference: http://www.linsdomain.com/totems/pages/hummingbird.htm