De Paola, Tomie. The Legend of the Bluebonnet. New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1983.
Today is the first official day of spring. From here the days get longer and the nights get shorter until we reach the summer solstice. In my patch of Northern, Central Texas, it has felt like spring for at least a month. We have had warm days into the 70s and 80s and cool evenings down into the 50s. It is one of my favorite seasons. As I write, I am sitting in my backyard with a glass of iced tea and a gentle breeze blowing across me. It is a practically, perfect day.
In Texas, a herald of spring is the Texas Bluebonnet. As soon as the weather starts to warm up in late February or early March, they begin to bloom. If you drive through our state during this time, you will see swaths of highway medians and roadsides covered with their bright blue flowers. We can thank Lady Bird Johnson for their generous displays, but that is another story. As I was shuffling through my books looking for a book about spring, I found this one. It combines my favorite time of year, with one of my favorite flowers in a book by one of my favorite authors/illustrators. Like the day, it is practically, perfect in every way.
In this version of the legend, there had been a great drought and the Comanche people were dying. For three days, they prayed and danced and drummed begging the Great Spirits to send them healing rains. At last their shaman spoke words from the Great Spirits. The Comanche people had become selfish. The people had taken and they had not given back. Only a burnt offering of a valued possession with its ashes scattered to the winds would save the people. The Comanche people retired to their tipis to consider the best sacrifice, each one thinking that the Great Spirits would not want their treasured items. Only a child, She-Who-Is-Alone was wise, generous, and brave enough to find a sacrifice. What does she have that will serve? Through the drought and the famine, she lost all her family, the only thing she had left was a warrior doll, made by her mother with bright blue feathers from a Jay brought to her by her father. It is precious to her. As deep night settled and everyone slumbered, she left the village and went to the hill, where the shaman received the words from the Great Spirits. She lit a small fire, prayed to the Spirits, and thrust her precious doll into the fire. When the ashes cooled, she scooped them up and scattered them to the four winds. Was her sacrifice enough? She laid down on the hillside and fell asleep. She woke with the morning light and to her surprise the hillside was covered in blue flowers, the same blue as the feathers on her warrior doll. The Great Spirits had forgiven the people and sent them the healing rains. Every year the hillsides of Texas bloom with these bright blue flowers, our Texas Bluebonnets, to remind us of the sacrifice of a brave and faithful girl.
This book is a glorious retelling of this story. See if you can find a copy to read to someone special on a bright spring day.
Here are some pictures of bluebonnets and other wild flowers growing in or near my yard. Happy Spring!!!
Bluebonnets from my neighbor’s yard! Alas we have none in our yard this year.
Here is a picture of our back 40. It is dotted with Anemones in white and purple. They are usually the first wildflowers to bloom in our yard. It also is sprinkled with the tiny pick flowers of the False Garlic plant. Jim waits as long as possible in the spring to mow back here. We love the sea of small wildflowers we have.
Here is one of the hardier Texas perennials. It is Prairie Verbena. It blooms all summer long. It is a bright beacon on the green landscape.
And last, but not least, one of my personal favorites the Dotted Blue-Eyed Grass. It is from the Iris family. They have little blue heads springing up from grassy leaves and stems.
If you don’t live in Texas, please enjoy all the blossoms. If you do live in Texas, I hope you get a chance to get out and see our spectacular wildflower displays.