Green! Everything seems so green this spring as we head towards the Red Rock Canyon loop road. The Joshua Trees are long past blooming, but the yucca is just starting, amid a carpet of globe mallow orange and yellow desert marigold. As we climb in elevation, white cliff rose and red penstemon greet us. Only when we set out on the dirt trail can we see the belly flowers, those tiny fuchsia blossoms that you have to get down on the ground to fully appreciate.
But it is the green that amazes me: the whole landscape seems to have been colored from a box of crayons containing only hues from sage to juniper. I am mesmerized, until a shock of red gets my attention: spears of Indian paintbrush poke up through the sageexactly where we saw them last year.
This must their niche; they’re spread out, like a cheerful celebration, a rite of spring scattered across the sand. We search for more patches as we ascend the trail. They stop before we do. That humans are the only species not limited to one niche has been both a blessing and a curse for the Earth.
We cut our hike short to return to the paintbrush habitat, its legend tweaking my imagination as I follow Little Gopher’s story. When this Plain’s Indian child could not keep up with his peers, he learned that his gift was different: he was to paint their hunts, not participate in them. Yet he longed to do more: he felt called to reproduce the colors of the sky at sunset. But his paints were too dull.
Then one evening he found brushes filled with red and orange and yellow lying on his favorite hillside. After painting the sunset, he left the brushes where he’d found them. They took root, multiplied, and now bloom every spring.
Standing on this holy ground, the sight of Indian paintbrush invites me to trust that human creativity can redeem our human caused climate crisis.