My first fish passage restoration project just wrapped up. For 8 days, I drove about 55 miles north of Anchorage every day to watch three culverts be replaced with large arched pipes. Twice a day I drove past the Eklutna flats, about halfway, and watched the wild irises coming into bloom. The weather was mostly cloudy and cool, but finally, on my last trip the sun was out and the irises were fully in bloom.
This beauty is very tempting. Some of us crowd into the small turnoff on the side of Alaska's busiest highway to photograph the flowers. Others pull off to dig some up and take it home. I'm not sure who owns this land, but I've read that it's illegal to dig up these irises. Even so, as I walked amongst the flowers I stepped into holes where irises used to be. One of the landowners at the restoration project mentioned driving down to Eklutna to dig up irises to plant in one of the areas along his driveway that needs to be revegetated.
We can't all take this beauty home with us except through photographs and other renderings. If just 1 in 10 passersby pulled over to dig up a few to take home, this iris bounty would be gone in one season. Those who stop to cut bouquets also reduce the number of blooms for others to enjoy and prevent new irises from seeding.
I struggle with the desire to own beautiful objects versus enjoying the moments that I have to admire them. Not only irises but also clothes, pottery, jewelry, art, even lovely places in Alaska. We are such a covetous society. But owning something doesn't make it any more beautiful. In fact, some ownership, like that of the irises, can decrease the beauty and mar or prevent the experience for others. The irises are awesome not just for each exquisite bloom but for the number of them. What if we valued sharing over hoarding? Could that make the experience even richer?
Already the bright greens of the Alaskan spring are starting to deepen, but a week ago, spring green was still leaping out of the fall's leaves and from the tree branches.
As a colleague of mine said, for two weeks in the spring, there is no place on Earth more beautiful than south-central Alaska.