Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Bluebonnets in Bloom by Diane LeBleu

It’s time for the annual pilgrimage outside to find the best field of the Texas State flower (not on private property, of course) for that completely unique photo of your children, your dog, your spouse, or all of the above. They really are quite pretty, these fields of blue wildflowers, sprinkled with some coral and lavender, on roadways and fields that are for a majority of the year rough, rocky and barren terrain. When I first moved to Texas from the Northwest a number of years ago, I would proclaim ‘What is all the fuss about? It’s just a glorified weed!’ but over time, I have come to appreciate the delicate beauty it provides as well as the pride it invokes in the heart of the Texan.

Pride is very big here in Texas – as big as the state itself, and that is LARGE. I find it rather comforting and refreshing, actually, for one cannot pick up a newspaper or listen to the news these days without hearing some complaint or protest about how awful, immoral, corrupt is this great country of ours. I wholeheartedly disagree with all those sentiments so it is nice for me to see, for a change, my fellow Texans out and about in the fields of blue, capturing yet another photo treasure of their most precious loves in a backdrop of wild flowers.

My husband and I used be business and technology consultants for Accenture many years ago. One of our first client assignments was USAA in San Antonio. We were young, just married, no children and we worked all time, including Fridays, which were non-work days for most of USAA’s 3000 plus-workforce. USAA is one of the largest, most highly respected employers in San Antonio and their office building (at one time larger than the Pentagon, it was boasted, in terms of square footage) was housed on a massive campus replete with jogging trails, soccer fields, basketball and volleyball courts and even a driving range. They also had numerous rolling fields that bloomed with a fantastic display of Texas Bluebonnets every spring. On Fridays, a number of employees would come back to campus with their families and camera to take photos of their loved ones amidst the sea of Bluebonnets. My husband and I would get a kick out of it – we said we would never resort to such suburban cliché. When the first of our co-workers in our peer group had a baby and took his son’s photo in the flowers, we just laughed and teased him about the goofy tradition that is embraced in South Texas.

Over the years after becoming parents ourselves, we found ourselves too busy to succumb to the lure of the Bluebonnet fields, despite urgings from grandparents who would love to have a photo of a beloved grandbaby to show around the office. One year, however, we fell victim to the tradition. Our daughter’s elementary school was located deep in a nearby suburban neighborhood that decades earlier had been a famous cattle ranch. A lot of the tract was spared homes in honor of jogging tracks and the open spaces to be enjoyed by the numerous residents of this high-priced real estate enclave. I drove by a stunning plateau of blooms one day on the way to school and a seed was planted. I would take a photo of my firstborn here in the flowers. I left my 2-year-old son home with his father and took 5-year-old Danielle out on a Sunday afternoon with fresh roll of film docked in my trusty 35mm camera. These were the days before good digital technology was affordable and commonplace. I shot a whole roll that day and she was more cooperative than I have ever seen her. After being displaced as queen bee in the household two years earlier, she had a chance to shine in the spotlight all her own.

When I got the prints back from the photo shop, I was amazed at how clear and bright they were. All these years – the Texans I once sneered at knew a secret I never suspected – that bluebonnets were as fine and forgiving a backdrop as any professional studio and with no sitting fee! You could dress a youngster in a dirty tee shirt and shorts and the effect would be casual and fun. You could dress them in their Easter finest, and you would have a moment set for the most exclusive children’s wear catalogue. I made a number of prints and sent them off to parents, grandparents, friends, siblings. They all remarked at the professional setting and quality of the prints. I confessed only to some that I was the actual artist behind the lens.

Two children later, we still have not been back to the Bluebonnet fields. Unfortunately, development at the first fields we found has removed them as a convenient possibility and my two youngest will not sit still for all the sweets in the candy shop. One day, perhaps, we will get the entire family out there to record our Texas pride for posterity. I am the only non-native Texan in my family now. My husband grew up in El Paso and all my children have been born here. I am a transplant – rooted in the fine Texas soil, just like the Bluebonnet, and I am here to stay.

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