Mustard flowers bring fields of gold to the valley

Gracie runs through a mustard field on a warm February afternoon.

Just when you think our South Valley can’t get any lovelier now that our golden hills have turned green, out of the cold and rain of winter (well, sort of—it’s been a strange year!) burst forth brilliant yellow flowers spreading like soft coverlets over our hills and vales.
It’s mustard flower season, and although I understand that these gems are edible (albeit sharp and peppery when raw and a bit bitter of leaf when cooked), I prefer to simply gaze upon them in the distance and hope their radiance will last for just a few weeks more.
These merry harbingers of our approaching spring bring an awareness of outdoors, making me feel like dancing through the fields of flowers like a child, although that’s probably not such a great idea at my (ahem!) age or when those sunny yellow blooms grow amongst vineyard rows and behind wooden or barbed wire fences.
However, an open field of mustard is nearly irresistible if you’re lucky enough to have a couple of small kiddos around adventurous enough to play amongst the cheerful blossoms and their accompanying bees. And if you, like me, are fond of taking pictures of said kiddos, then you have the makings of a great afternoon outing.
A few years ago, during one of those blow-out Super Bowl games when the only good parts left were the commercials, my older daughter and I found an open field full of blossoming mustard, and we set my two young granddaughters loose. We didn’t stay long but there was time enough to capture images and make some wonderful memories of the little ones playing in the late afternoon sun.
I have my mother to thank for bringing me up to appreciate the full beauty of nature. When I was small, my parents bundled me into the back seat of the family auto and off we’d go to find picturesque scenes for my mother to capture on her old German-made SLR Pilot Super camera. My dad developed the pictures at home in the kitchen, which he turned into a darkroom with a special red light and pungent chemicals.
When our family moved to the South Valley in the early ’80s, my mom delighted in this time of year: winter, with its rich colors and rapidly changing vistas. Grabbing her camera—a modern rendition of her old Pilot—we’d set out to find bare-limbed trees growing in interesting shapes with light and shadow deepening her images. She loved trees and barns and windmills, but most of all she loved mustard flowers in winter.
Although I didn’t realize it at the time, she inspired in me the same excitement that came over her on a fine, “weatherly” day when a watery sun plays hide-and-seek with clouds racing across the late afternoon sky. When the sun turns its brilliance upon those mustard fields, nature doesn’t get too much more dolled up than that.

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