More Wildflowers and Wild Weather

Nature is in a dramatic mood lately!

Can’t say that I blame her. Sometimes you just have to let those feelings out.

Here’s one of several minute-long videos I took of a lightning and thunder storm that hovered overhead for quite a while last night. It started just before sunset and featured both sheet and bolt lightning. You can hear the birds going about their business of singing and settling in for the night. You can also hear a burbling stream that flows nearby; it sounds like rain, but the rain and hail – a real gully-washer – didn’t arrive until several minutes later, towards the end of the light show. I love standing outside watching these storms light up the sky, although they’re not without their dangers.

This morning I learned that a bolt of lightning from last night’s storm struck a tree near a friend’s home about ten miles north, igniting it. Several neighbors went out in the dark and doused the fire. That reminded me how in October 2008 I was watching a similar storm. Watching through a window, I was nearly blinded by a brilliant flash of lightning that hit just down slope from my house, followed immediately by the loudest crash of thunder I hope I ever experience. Crazy scary and cool at the same time. It was already dark, so I couldn’t see where the bolt hit, but it was so close I was sure I’d find a divot in my field the next day.

I went to bed, only to hear fire truck sirens in the distance 45 minutes later. That bolt of lightning had struck a tall pine tree and glanced of it to the corner of a house that had just sold and closed that morning (and so was vacant). It took a while for the flames to grow enough that a neighbor saw them and called in the fire. I watched the flames engulf the house, bright orange and terrifying against the night sky. The house burned to the ground despite a downpour of rain and the efforts of our small rural fire department, the firefighters helpless to do anything but make sure it didn’t spread to neighboring properties.

A few years later, the same scene played out, another house in my subdivision burning after a lightning strike.

And, of course, in summer these storms ignite forest wildfires, some small, some devastating. In an effort to prevent future devastation, the Forest Service does selective burning – prescribed burns – of the forest undergrowth to reduce the fuels that feed wildfires. Prescribed burns leave blackened trees trunks and branches behind.

Knowing firsthand the damage lightning can cause, I watch these displays with both fascination and a large amount of trepidation. I can’t control where lightning strikes, so I witness the power of nature with awe and hope for the best.

forest, wildflowers
The forest floor is abloom with tiny wildflowers. Here, avalanche lilies in an area where the Forest Service did a prescribed burn last spring.

This morning, the birds were singing their usual songs, ushering in the dawn. It was calm, the sky was mostly blue, last night’s storm long gone. A layer of fog hugged the valley. The dogs and I went for a hike in the forest, just above the fog. I wanted to search for wildflowers, the boys wanted to follow their noses.

We all found what we wanted.

Some wildflower photos…

wildflowers
Douglas’s grasswidows.
hosta leaves
Hosta leave with raindrops. These plants and their flowers eventually grow as tall as me.
trillium
A sad-looking trillium, cold and wet after yesterday’s storm.
wildflowers and pine needles
A group of waterleaf ballheads thriving among last year’s discarded pine needles.
avalanche lilies
Avalanche lilies in all stages of flowering.
trillium
A group of trillium soaked from yesterday’s storm.
sunflower
A sunflower (arrowleaf balsomroot) greeting the morning sun.
springbeauty wildflower
A lanceleaf springbeauty fully opened, greeting the sun.
wildflowers
Avalanche lilies alongside the trail. All of these wildflowers are small, growing close to the ground. One must pay close attention to see them when they’re first emerging after a long winter.
sunflowers
Sunflowers just beginning to bloom and reach for the sun.

The boys and I spent 90 wonderful minutes hiking through the forest this morning. At one point I decided to follow a fire break (a cut in the ground, removing vegetation, made by wildland firefighting crews to help prevent a fire from moving across a landscape) made last year that we’ve turned into a private trail. It goes straight up a steep slope that was quite muddy today, arriving at an open hillside perfect for wildflowers. Private, remote, and quiet, it wasn’t part of my original plan. A reminder that following whims and noses can be unexpectedly rewarding, as most of these photos were taken on that hillside.

dog in forest
Conall trotting alongside the firebreak “trail” near the top of the open hillside.

[An aside: My dogs frequently photobomb my wildflower photos. I’ve collected several and will use them create a dog photobombing post soon.]

Later in the day, Nature reminded me why I’m a morning person. The weather was perfect for our forest outing, but by noon another storm moved in. Here’s the sound of thunder rolling through our valley around 2 pm, accompanied by a heavy rain, the most thrilling rumble toward the end…

I’ve often said that one of the reasons I love living here is the distinct seasons. These storms – the lightning and thunder, the downpours of rain and hail, quickly followed by clear skies – are another reason.

Featured image: sunflowers (arrowleaf balsomroot) near the beautiful bark of a Ponderosa pine tree trunk.

22 thoughts on “More Wildflowers and Wild Weather”

  1. Mother Nature has been showing her power here in SW MO. A few night ago another tornado warning was issued. An RV couple from CA stated, “they’d take earthquakes over this crazy weather anyway!” Me, not so sure. I have much respect for Mother Nature’s mood swings; yet, also love the eerie calm and change in weather too. It’s fascinating with its power to change so instantly. That flash of lightning right at the end of your video was amazingly bright! And the flowers were beautiful too. Look forward to seeing dog photobomb pics. What a perfect hike!

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    1. You’re right! Wow! But of course you are; you’re expert at zooming in on and isolating the amazing in otherwise mundane historic photos. I’ll have to play with screen shots, see if I can isolate some good shots of lightning bolts in my several videos. Thanks!

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    1. I’m sure it’s very noticeable in cities and suburbs. I like seeing that wildlife rebounds quickly when we humans step aside. I’m not confident that those benefits will be taken into broader account post-pandemic, but it warms my heart to see it, no matter how short-lived.

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  2. Summer 1983. Browns Addition Spokane. Hot but windy and stormy. I am sitting on the back porch of a rented row house with an airman from Fairchild AFB watching a similar storm. One by one sections of Spokane go dark, including Browns Addition. We walked to Rosauers to buy more beer and returned to watch more of the Greatest Show on Earth. Never better.

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    1. It is a show, isn’t it?! When a kid our family would visit relatives in Kansas in July. That was my first introduction to sitting on porches to watch “dry” thunderstorms, and to fireflies at night. I was fascinated by both. Good memories!

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      1. I love them too. Can’t get out and do this photography much right now. My dog is 13 1/2 and when there is a storm, I have to get on the couch with her, cover her up with a blanket, head and all and make sure she is touching me. Only way she finds comfort. 😊

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      2. Oh my, that’s sad but also touching, that she reacts so negatively but also that she derives enough comfort from you and a blanket to ride out the storms. It’s those times – and when they’re sick or injured – when I really wish we could communicate a bit more effectively with our pups, offering specific reassurance. She’s lucky to have you be there for her ❤

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      3. I’m lucky to have her. She was my comfort when my granddaughter passed away 11 years ago so we’ve got a special bond. She’s a great dog and I’ll cherish all the time we’ve got left together. 🥰

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      4. I’m so sorry for your terrible loss. I’m glad your pup was there to help you through. Isn’t it amazing how they’re always there for us, especially through the terrible, difficult times? Unconditional love. It’s a real thing, tangible they offer us. Can’t imagine life without dogs.

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      5. Well said. I’ve had many dogs in my life over the years but the last one lived to be 18 1/2 and now Heaven is 13 1/2. I won’t be getting another for a while once she passes. After I get done with my traveling I may get another. Our friend in Virginia adopts terminally ill and senior dogs to provide comfort in their last days, week or months. Dogs that are in no kill shelters that were never adopted. She is a saint! 😊

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