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The Newcomer

Beauty is where you find it...and other places

When you live in a desert, you have to be especially alert when searching for natural beauty. Our landscape is not one that rises up and hits you in the face with towering pine trees, tropical flowers or acres of green pastures.

No, our sagebrush and sand is much more subtle.

While our Yakima Valley sand does not have the romantic allure of golden beaches gently lapped by foamy waves, it does harbor some spiny, but beautiful, cactus in the spring time. Even then, one has to trek out through a bunch of what looks like dead weeds to see the multi-colored blooms because they nestle close to the ground.

I recently learned those bunches of weed-like matter are rising to the surface of elite circles under the name of shrub steppes. The wild growth has come into its own as wineries plunk down operations on, near or overlooking it. Of course, in addition to the tourist attraction of these natural weeds, the wineries add their own brand of scenery to our valley as they cultivate luscious vines and orchards. Now those scents and sights are what I call scenery.

However, there really is something to be said for what grows naturally in our valley.

I can recall a high school student who was earning his way to college collecting natural materials, like thistles and baby's breath, that he dried and sold to florist shops. I have gathered an armful myself to dry and use for winter arrangements.

The library in Cle Elum went au naturalé some years ago, with enthusiastic volunteers roaming into the hills to find native grasses to put into the brick planters surrounding that building. At first, they looked rather attractive, if a bit dry. Then they began to grow...and grow...and grow. When I moved from the area, the planters were buried under towering masses that looked as if they were struggling to return home.

It does take a discerning eye to recognize these wee....shrub steppes....as natural beauty. I saw someone, who shall be nameless, doing some energetic weeding in a city flower bed a few weeks ago. He was pulling up tall, dried out looking plants hand-over-fist. He had a large heap of them lying on the sidewalk when I approached and told him I thought those were native grasses that had been intentionally planted. He gave me an appalled look, gazed around wild-eyed, dropped the plant he had in his hand and took off for parts unknown.

Some of us are just more in tune with mountains and oceans.

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