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California poppies: Eschscholzia californica and torture

“Humans are creatures in search of exultation,” Ellen Meloy writes. Exultation = the Lake Elsinore poppy fields. Saturday. Cold. Misty rain. Windy . . . Less than ideal conditions to photograph fields of Eschscholzia californica. Fields of glorious unopened poppies. Poppies that at 6:15 am don’t put us to sleep but whose neon orange jolts us wide awake. Rose Ramirez, Joe Moreno, and I are in search of exultation in the form of wildflowers, masses of them.

Yesterday, on a reconnaissance mission, we found canterbury bells (Phacelia campanularia) off the I-15 on the Main Street exit, yellow fiddlenecks and canterbury bells on the Nichols exit, and poppies, thousands of poppies, on Lake Street.

Today, we’re positioned to photograph as the sun comes up over the mountains in the east. Full sun had been predicted, but it’s inordinately cloudy, Through my macro lens, I photograph the dew as it clings to the poppies. The hour of the wolf is the time before sunrise when bird song stimulates plants to drink morning dew. The hour of the wolf is also the time when we should be sipping our lattes (this is, after all, southern California). We’re wet and cold, but we photograph the poppies for over an hour.
I’m smitten by a single blue dicks, aka wild hyacinth, growing in the midst of the poppies. After we’re done shooting, we discuss the next time we’ll come back, when the conditions will be ideal. For wildflower addicts, there’s always a next time, another possibility of exultation.

On the west side of the I-15, we find El Comal, a small Salvadoran restaurant in Lake Elsinore with pupusas stuffed with cheese and squash and beans. I tell my friends Rose and Joe how I travelled to El Salvador 24 years ago in 1984 to attend a conference sponsored by Co-Madres, Mothers of the Disappeared.

The desaparecidos were labor leaders, peasant organizers, striking workers, agrarian reformers, progressive priests and nuns, student demonstrators, human rights activists, anyone with a progressive agenda who defied the U.S. trained military/paramilitary and the U.S. supported government in power. Anyone who defied our sphere of influence, our vital interests, our investment climate, our national security. . . .

Humans are creatures in search of human rights and social justice. A life without truncheons, acid burns, blindfolding, isolation, dehydration, sleep deprivation, death threats, death squads and state-sanctioned torture.

Humans are creatures in search of a life with pupusas and poppy fields, canterbury bells and bird song, espresso and exultation.

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