An Urban Getaway

by | Feb 24, 2021 | Feature, Landscapes, Native Plants

Every spring, I roam the landscape searching for the perfect field, the perfect bloom. In clear, crisp morning air, sun low on the horizon, my scouting eye peruses miles of highway trails, chasing peak blooms on endless Texas back roads. During early spring of 2020, my excitement dashed by the looming pandemic, I chose, like many of us, to remain at home.

Feeling restless one March afternoon, I grabbed camera and keys, and cruised around my South Austin neighborhood. While driving along a thoroughfare, I caught a glimpse of blue obscured behind a woodland area. Moments later, I reveled in my good fortune, breathing in the fragrance of an immense field of bluebonnets (Lupinus texensis). In reality, the field was a re-irrigation zone. But it was also a blooming meadow, with vast opportunities for photography and intimate observation. At day’s end, I cast a final glance across the field’s expanse as a ray of sunshine dipped below a cloud. Bluebonnets shimmered in golden light, and shadows fell below wing petals in the sway of a gentle breeze.

With a renewed sense of wonder, I returned countless times over the next several months, photographing the field’s transformation. The untamed, thriving ecosystem was alive with bees, foraging for pollen and nectar. Carrying the weight of dewdrops on her wing cover, a ladybug labored upward on a horsemint (Monarda citriodora) stem. After bluebonnets faded in exchange for showy firewheel (Gaillardia pulchella), prairie coneflower (Ratibida columnifera) began to emerge around the perimeter of the meadow. Spiders wove webs among shriveled bluebonnets going to seed as grasses grew around them.

Mood, tone and light informed the spirit of the meadow as it gently nudged me to slow down. I rarely encountered others and the silence was a welcome respite. Once, at daybreak, I felt a kinship with a solitary deer gazing out toward the rising sun. He and I were alone together, in the expanse of this wild urban landscape. 

The spiky-looking silhouette of a Texas thistle (Cirsium texanum) is dark against a white full moon with other thistle silhouettes of thistles against a dark blue night sky.

In the predawn chill of an early morning in May, I walked through the moonlit meadow feeling optimistic. Searching for the best perspective for a full moonset image, I settled upon a patch of purple Texas thistle (Cirsium texanum). Camera on tripod, I kneeled down and framed the shot. In striking silhouette of the luminous moon, the thistle leaned in slightly, then rested in the quiet stillness. As I made my way from the field, Native American lore suddenly occurred to me as I realized the full moon of May is known as the Flower Moon. Thoroughly satisfied, I ambled across the road and headed home.

On the left, the young fruit of Texas bluebonnets (Lupinus texensis) in bright sun-washed field; on the right, Prairie coneflowers (Ratibida columnifera) blooms in the late afternoon sun.

Amongst the verdant grasses, prairie coneflowers displayed their showy blooms in the golden hour’s warmth as a light summer breeze lifted them in unison. An upbeat flower, they come alive when backlit, animated in their jazzy tenor.

The urban landscape was left uncut deep into summer, enabling the annual wildflowers to complete their life cycle. Documenting each stage of the bluebonnet’s evolution has been an enriching experience. Impeccable in design, intoxicating in fragrance, and a perfect fit for pollinating bees, bluebonnets earn their rank as Texas’ state flower. Pictured here is a young fruit that will eventually turn brown, twist and break open, releasing its seeds.

It was still sprinkling after a heavy downpour when the sun emerged one late afternoon, its beams streaming through an upstairs window. Instinctively, I dashed out and arrived at the field in record time. Much to my chagrin, the rainbow had faded, but the landscape was extraordinary in its brilliance. I stood in awe of the light upon the meadow. The stormy sky put on a fantastic show, its temperamental radiance rolling out in an easterly direction. In a moment, the sun dipped slightly and acres of shimmering firewheel bore witness to the closing light of day.

Theresa DiMenno‘s decades-long photography career emerged from a three-month trip to California in 1977. Her journey has since carried her through the Texas music scene, photojournalism, and countless portraits, events and exhibitions. Her work reflects an intimate connection with people and nature.