I’m wandering with care around my campsite on Fish Lake National Forest in southern Utah. Prickly pear cactus hug the ground like many-clawed crabs. They proffer spines to the sunshine and tightly held pink flowers ready to unfurl in the warmth of the day. Others offer saffron and peach-colored flowers. The morning light illuminates an ecosystem that’s wildly exotic for a Montanan. I start to choose the photos I will take—the flower with every blossom intact, the shrubby oak leaves with their lovely hand-like shapes, the silky plumes on mountain mahogany and the oval gleaming sappy cones of the pinyons. But wait.
Why should what’s whole be perfect? Why is it that we seek in nature and in life the new, fresh and all that is untouched and whole? The hummingbird lands not on a living branch but on a dead sentinel pinyon perch to see better. Tiny insects chew holes in the oak leaves, imbuing them with character and in turn the insects are feeding the gnatcatcher family that flits around a pinyon close to my camper parked here alone on a rocky outpost facing east. The green-tailed towhee and spotted towhee that share the mahogany close by are foraging for spiders and insects too.
This morning I’m celebrating life-giving imperfection. And I realize it’s much easier to embrace the imperfect.
Take my camper. I could have tried to even it up on this slightly tilting campsite by finding a rock and driving up on it just so. Or I could simply ignore the sheets I’d made up on my bed and flop my sleeping bag on top the other direction to avoid blood rushing to my head. I chose the easier option.
I did take time to navigate the truck when parking so my window view in the morning would face the sweeping eastern view over the pinyon-juniper forest. I slept well, despite some trepidation about odd piles of bones clustered in three different places near the site. One appeared to be a bird, another a deer and the third perhaps a cow. Lighting up my camper with my yellow sunflower lights helped soothe any anxiety and the morning transformed.
Greeting this day of waxy cactus flowers catching the rays, rising up from chewed upon prickly pear pads I think of Georgia O’Keeffe painting gigantic flowers so people would have no choice but to take the time to see them and be amazed. This morning, I’m amazed too as I head into the southwest into her country, a land of whitened bones, of spines, and everywhere the wonder of imperfect beauty.