Thursday, 23 April 2009

Sweet bluebonnet spring

Texas bluebonnets: as far as the eye can see

No matter where we have lived in the world, my family has always managed to visit Texas during the March/April bluebonnet season. While I realize that it is more happy coincidence than collusion, the British school system just happens to break up for several weeks during the very best bit of the Texas year. Like predictable homing pigeons, albeit with considerably more luggage, we make our way back to the original nest.

Although we land in Houston, I never really feel "home" until we embark on the long drive to my parents' house in central Texas. Outside of the city, I really begin to notice the vast blue bowl of a sky that characterizes my home state.

For Lucy, who enquired about bluebonnets last spring

The bluebonnets are always the most lush around the Brenham/Chappell Hill area -- about 70 miles northwest of Houston. We drove through on a sunny Saturday, and the sloping sides of the road were thronged by amateur photographers. As far as I know it isn't a law, but it is certainly the custom that all Texas children should be be photographed in the bluebonnets, preferably decked out in their new Easter clothes.

In Texas, you are never too far from a herd of cows

It is a 200 mile drive from Houston to my parents' house, and you can drive many of those miles without seeing anything but fields and cows. There are about five towns with population enough for gas stations and fast food restaurants. I know I'm in Texas when I can fill up the gas tank for only 25 dollars. Another tip: If you time your drive-by through Elgin just right, you can hit the Sonic Happy Hour and buy a lime slush for half-price.

If you look closely, you can spy
the state of Texas
branded on this cow's hide

It looks like this cow is eating bluebonnets, but she may be grazing around them. Blue Bell, the best ice cream in Texas, is made in Brenham . . . which is also the approximate location of this cow.

Look homeward, angel

This picture was taken on a day almost unbelievably perfect, yet only two days later a terrible storm brought five inches of rain and a brutal wind which uprooted trees and tore off roofs. Texas can be a bit intense.


She said...

OH, this just makes my heart leap inside my chest. I have tons of photos of my sister and me surrounded by Bluebonnets. I used to stop and jump out of my car to snap pictures on my drive from Houston to Austin where I went to university!

And Blue Bell ice cream! I've not had any in such a very long time, but you're right, IT IS THE BEST! I've taken many trips to the creamery in Brenham!

Such great memories.

Thank you for making me smile today!

She said...

Oh and Sonic! Well, that's our first stop straight from the airport when I land in Houston. My sister doesn't even ask. That's just the routine.

Best crushed ice!!!

Nimble said...

I'm glad you had a good drive and some beautiful bluebonnets. I don't think I've ever really seen peak bluebonnet time. Maybe we'll manage in the next few years.

I hope everyone enjoyed the Texas succulence and that travels were fairly easy. Here's hoping that our Austin visits overlap your TX stays one of these days.

marja-leena said...

Oh, how lovely! Those bluebonnets look rather like our lupins though I haven't seen them in blue. Happy holidays!

Anne said...

Oh, how lovely! We get bluebonnets out here (though we call them lupine), and they're just gorgeous. On a beautiful sunny day a few weeks ago, a friend and the Suitor and I took a hike in Big Sur. We wound up on a mountaintop in a whole field of lupine overlooking the ocean. I have to imagine that if there's a heaven, it looks a lot like that. I'm so glad that your Texas trips tend to coincide with prime bluebonnet season--it would be a shame to miss such beautiful flowers.

Glad to have you back!

A Thousand Clapping Hands said...

Your photographs are just beautiful! I have a photo of myself sitting in a field of bluebonnets...they are like an ocean! Lady-Bird has left us with so much roadside beauty. The fields of wildflowers are amazing! Enjoy yourself!

Wildeve said...

Beautiful photos of the bluebonnets, and cows!

Margaret Gosden said...

Reminds me of blue bell time in the UK - how I missed blue bells when I came here to the East coast! And I even tried to grow them. Yes, I was in Washington DC in the 1960s and thought Lady Bird Johnson started, and left us a great legacy with her plan to grow wild flowers everywhere. I wonder why I do not see bluebonnets so much on the East coast. Only a Texan would know that I suppose.

ArtSparker said...

the last photo has a hallucinatory intensity.

♥ bfs~"Mimi" ♥ said...

I am at home and in love with the Bluebonnets.

Meri Arnett-Kremian said...

Is that Indian paintbrush in amongst the blue bonnets?

Delwyn said...

Hello Bee
What a wonderful sight that must be. Are the cattle eating the same lupin plant?
And what are the red flowers?
Happy Days

Bee said...

She - I love your phrase, "this just makes my heart leap inside my chest." Intense beauty plus nostalgia = that is exactly what it feels like. I wonder where people (who don't have fields of bluebonnets) pose their children for spring pictures?

P.S. We have lots of food/drink routines, too.

Nimble - "Texas succulence" - that's perfect! We certainly feasted, oh my goodness, yes. I meet Neisha in Austin -- at Chuy's (per usual), of course. Next year you will join us, cross fingers?

Marja-leena - I believe that bluebonnets are related to the lupin, although they aren't as tall, and only come in one color. They say that bluebonnets will only grow in TX, but that may be a myth. (I've never seen them anywhere else, though.)

Anne - I love the visual image of the sea of lupines. The phrase "sweet bluebonnet spring" comes from a Nanci Griffith song. The chorus is, "When we die, he says, we'll catch some blackbird's wing and we will fly away to heaven on some sweet bluebonnet spring." When I got up this morning and read these lovely comments, I thought, "It's good to BE back."

Bee said...

Catherine - Of course, grown-ups like to sit in the bluebonnets, too. :) They have such a distinctive smell, but I can't think how to describe it.

Wildeve - Thank you! For some reason, I ended up with lots of pictures of cows.

Margaret - I have been enjoying the bluebells since I got back to England. They are a more subtle flower, but occupy a similarly beloved place in the collective heart, I think. As for Lady Bird Johnson, her wildflower (and cherry tree) initiatives were definitely a good thing.

ArtSparker - Oh, thank you! It has a bit of a Wyeth feeling to it, I think . . . but I just got lucky with the intense blues of the flowers and the sky.

bfs Mimi - And next, I will have to brag to you about the beautiful tulips in my English garden!

Meri - Yes! That red blotch is Indian paintbrush. I'm impressed that you know about it.

Delwyn - The red flowers are Indian paintbrush . . . another native Texas wildflower. Happy days, indeed.

Fantastic Forrest said...

May I just say it's about time? :-)

LOVE your bluebonnets. I'd always wondered what they looked like, and was surprised to realize these are lupines! We have them too. And I love them. Have you read Barbara Cooney's Miss Rumphius? Check it out.

Oh, and Sonic limeades? YUM!

The description of the rural drive reminds me of visiting my Mom in a neighboring state. Not where I grew up, but she is happily retired there. It is nice to be near farms and countryside.

Beth said...

I had no idea fields of bluebonnets existed. They're beautiful - as are your pictures.

Welcome back!

JaneyV said...

Bee - welcome back. I missed you. I'm so glad you had such a wonderful vacation. I sometimes think that there's a part of the psyche that only home can fill up. There's a need to smell certain things, take part in family ritual and see beauty to recharge that part of the soul. There's a lake just outside Limerick that does that for me. I'm going there tomorrow. Just for a day but it's enough to fill the lungs with that hometown energy.

The Bluebonnets are stunning. To see fields and fields of them with that Texas Big Sky over must be breathtaking. I'm enjoying the purple haze of the bluebells right now. I think in about a week they'll be just right for another walk with my camera.

flawsnall said...

Thanks for shining beautiful light on our state flower. They are quite lovely now. Here in Arlington/Fort Worth, we enjoy them along side the highway. They are so beautiful and look like a sea of purple-blue...

Lisa said...

The last picture is absolutely mesmerizing. I am so wild about blue flowers, I envy those who can grow blue bonnets and lupines.

The trip home sounds lovely and I was tickled by your description of being like homing pigeons with more luggage.

Now I'm thinking Sonic for lunch.

Welcome back. I missed your posts.

Tessa said...

Oh, I think the 'Look homeward, angel' is my favourite. It just says it all! Wonderful, wonderful fields of blue. Like a blanket of heaven has fallen to earth...

Welcome back, Bee, you've been missed but I'm so pleased you had a lovely time back home and hope you feel refreshed and happy and ready to face England again for a while.

Bee said...

FF - I know, I know. On Wednesday, I got all geared up to write, and then our Internet was down all day. It was maddening.

Miss Rumphius: I know it well. Beautiful illustrations.

Beth - It is a real treat to see a field . . . usually it is more like a patch.

JaneyV - Your point about home is well taken. I've been doing lots of musing on that very subject. Enjoy Limerick - what a wonderful sound it has! (And I look forward to this spring's bluebell walk.)

flawsnall - They are just one of those irresistible Texas things!

Lisa - tater tots and a lime slush. You can't go wrong.

Tessa - there are so many beautiful tulips blooming in my garden! As much as I love visiting TX, I'm always ready to come "home" to the place that I live.

Dumdad said...

I've never heard of bluebonnets before - are they like the British bluebells? Whatever, they're lovely.

Rinkly Rimes said...

Your bluebonnets remind me of the bluebell picture sent to me from England today. You might like to take a look and compare.

♥ Braja said...

I hope when i come to Texas i can eat some Bluebell icecream from a cow who's gorged on bluebells that you've admired and which have filled your heart with happiness :))

Elizabeth said...

You make me feel as if I want to visit Texas.
Your photographs are superb.
Buebonnets and cows seem wonderfully compatible.
I bet you have returned with new tales to tell.
We have missed you in blogland.

Reya Mellicker said...

What a beautiful post! Wow! I love the pictures. I think of Texas as being rather featureless ... maybe because of what it looks like in old westerns, but wow, it's beautiful!

So great that your family migrates during bluebell season. I love that.

Glad you're back home and posting again, too.

Debski Beat said...


I have just returned to the Hundred Acre Wood and it is festooned with bluebells, its seems the arrival of Springs prompts this wonderful colour everywhere, what a fab photo that is. Down here at the HA Wood we use lavender mixed with thyme to make icecream.

Lucy said...

Bee, those are just astonishing! They really are the same blue as the sky. Thank you so much for showing them to us.

Anonymous said...

Welcome back! Spectacular picts! I must make it to Texas in spring.

Alyson (New England Living) said...

I've never seen the bluebonnets of Texas, though I've heard about them forever. So beautiful. I absolutely adore that color and you can clearly see from my wardrobe!

Great pictures, Bee! You have the "eye".

Sarah Laurence said...

Bee, welcome back! Your opening photo is beyond GORGEOUS! You must have learned a lot in your photography course. The low angle, the field and the girl make me think of Christina’s World only happier. You capture the joy of spring so well. I can see why you love Texas in this photo. I've never seen Texas blue bonnets and wish I could see them in person now.

It must have been hard to leave. Sorry to hear about the storm. I missed you – good to have you back.

Just a Plane Ride Away said...

Thank you for sharing this bit of home! And there is NOTHING like a bowl of Bluebell Ice Cream. Nothing.


Jan said...

Wonderful blog. Wonderful Blues! Such colour.
Hope you're rested now and that England can provide you with some Springtime beauty!

willow said...

Welcome back, Bee! Fabulous bluebonnet pics from deep in the heart of Texas. Glad to hear you were enjoying time with family, but nice to know you are back in the bloggyhood. You were missed.

Bee said...

Dumdad - I've just posted the photographic contrast: bluebells vs bluebonnets.

Rinkly Rimes - Thanks for the tip; but now that I'm back in England, there are lots of lovely bluebells to admire.

Braja - And may I suggest a tour of the Bluebell Factory? They give free samples. :)

Elizabeth - You must only visit Texas in bluebonnet season, promise?

Reya - Well, Texas (an awful lot of it) is just like your imaginings . . . rather vast, empty and featureless. But it does have its beauties!

Debski - I'm so glad that you are back in England! We need to stroll through a garden together, whilst eating that intriguing ice cream.

Lucy - I thought of you when I took those pictures. I wonder what you would have made out of that landscape?

The Things We Carried - Thank you, kind friend.

Alyson - Well, I'm not sure about the eye . . . but sometimes I get lucky!

Sarah - I thought of Christina's World, too! Of course, at the time, I was half-blinded by the sun . . . and the composition was mostly luck. When do the first flowers in Maine bloom?

JAPRA - Moo-linium Crunch. 'nuff said.

Jan - Well, it was thrilling to see what three weeks of sun and rain had wrought in my English garden. Thanks for visiting!

Willow - Thanks so much. I can't wait to tell you a bit about my geneological travels.

D.A. Riser said...

Howdy, Bee!

I'm in Dallas, and we took our son for pictures in the blue bonnets a couple of weekends ago. It is a wonderful tradition. Incidentally, I'll readily admit that your photos turned out better than mine. Those looked great and really captured the spirit of the Texas prairie.

Sarah Laurence said...

They just started blooming while I was in NYC, mostly daffs and forsythia. A few crocuses in mid April. Spring kicks in for May. I should be writing but am just about to take the dog for a walk before it gets to hot - amazingly.

M.Kate said...

A blog friend sent me the bluebonnets seeds, I have been planting them for more than a month but not flowering yet, maybe its the hot and humid weather here. These images are just beautiful..tks for sharing.

BrightBoy said...

I have never been to Texas but wish to go very much, and your post reinforced my desire. What a beautiful state you're from.

It must be very strange for you to be so faraway from home in such a different place.

Bee said...

D.A. Riser - It is difficult to capture the immense sky of Texas (so different from England's sky), but I was really pleased with these pictures. Thanks for visiting me.

Sarah - The transition between snow and spring flowers seems to happen so rapidly!

M.Kate - I've never tried to plant bluebonnet seeds. I wonder if there is some trick to it? Where do you live?

BrightBoy - Thanks for the feedback. I hope you get to visit Texas someday. Is there some place you particularly want to go?

Bitty said...

Hello, Bee! I've been away from blogging for awhile, and you were away, period, so we've not crossed paths.

The photos are lovely.

I grew up in Maryland and I so miss the forsythia and lilacs there. I never seem to get back in the spring.

As for your question about where people elsewhere pose their children for spring photos, here in Florida it would be in front of the azaleas.

BrightBoy said...

I don't know, it just seems like a cool state.

I'd love to check out Austin and then maybe see the beach at Galveston or Corpus Christie. People keep moving down there, there must be something to it!

Bee said...

Bitty - I was just thinking about you! The lilacs are gorgeous here right now, btw.

We do the azalea pic in Houston, too.

BrightBoy - Austin is good. I also love San Antonio. Big Bend is vast and empty and beautiful in a spooky way.