By Kristen Banks
When we first started our quilt shop almost two years ago, I had a list of fabrics that I knew I definitely wanted to carry. One was a pretty wildflower print that has been around for many many years. This fabric is brightly colored and depicts a meadow in spring blooming with bluebonnets and Indian paintbrushes.
It’s not hard to see why this would be a popular print around these parts, as it does a nice job of showing off the native flora. In fact, it didn’t feel like we had a real quilt shop until I had this particular bolt socked snug away in my shelves. But, to my surprise, when I would proudly show it to customers who were looking for something similar they’d say, “Oh, that old print, that’s been around for 100 years!” and move on to something newer.
I was a little puzzled and saddened by this. I do understand the desire for something new and fresh, but there are just some things that don’t need any improvement.
I think one of the reasons that I love that old fabric so much is that it’s a nice illustration of my favorite flower of all time, which is the Indian Paintbrush. And strangely enough it turns out that the Indian Paintbrush isn’t actually a flower. The plant’s proper name is Castilleja, and it’s a parasitic member of the Snapdragon family.
It’s most commonly referred to as ‘Indian paintbrush’ due to the fact that it’s petals (which aren’t really petals at all, they’re something called ‘bracts’) resemble a brush dipped in brightly colored paint, and was often used by Native Americans for various medicinal purposes. But to my eye, it’s a nostalgic reminder of a brightly colored childhood spent growing as wild and free as those beautiful blaze colored ‘prairie roses.’ In fact, in my opinion a regal red rose pales in comparison to the beauty of the common paintbrush.
Growing up out in the country in Oklahoma, I can remember springs when the paintbrushes covered the pastures and ditches like a Technicolor blanket. When you would come upon a stretch peppered with tens of thousands of them spread out over the open fields it would almost take your breath away. I remember as a kid thinking I’d never seen anything so beautiful, and the best part was there were hundreds growing in my own back yard. I used to pick bouquets full of them, put them in my hair, and generally just study them. I even ate one once, just the ‘petals,’ they were kind of sweet. I’m sure my Mom didn’t know that, she probably would have frowned upon it.
The coolest thing is that no two are exactly alike. They come in many different shades ranging from pink to orange to red, and I even read that sometimes they can be yellow or even cream colored. To me, they represent everything that was right about a childhood spent running barefoot, with skinned knees, sunburnt freckled cheeks, pigtails, and innocence.
When I look around at what the world is becoming, and how so many things that I once loved and cherished are changing or even becoming obsolete, I have to wonder whether all of these ‘improvements’ are really leading down a better road. It seems like every other day I see something that I think was actually right about this world has gone the way of the dinosaur in the name of progress.
One spring, not too many years ago, I was driving to work, and I didn’t notice a solitary Indian Paintbrush. I knew it was peak blooming season, which would have put it sometime in the middle of April, and I scoured the landscape for the 10-mile drive to town looking for some hint of a scarlet tip buried deep in the grassy fields and ditches along the way. But I found nothing.
It really grieved me to think that their time, like so many things that I love, might be drawing to an end. It sounds silly, but it bothered me, a lot. It bothered me so much that a few days later on that same drive alone I prayed. I said, “Lord, there are so many good things that are going away, so many things that I’m going to miss. I know that’s just a part of life, but I’m asking you to please save the Indian Paintbrushes, even if it’s just for me. Please let them bloom again and always bloom, so that I can enjoy seeing them.”
And I kid you not, I don’t think I’d driven a minute further until I looked up and saw a huge patch of those glorious little crimson beauties just beaming at me, on that same drive I had taken in despair just a few days earlier. And do you know that every year since then I’ve never failed to find patches of them? And it may be my imagination, but it seems like there are more and more decorating the path of my daily drive every year since.
It’s nice to know that in this ever changing world there are a few things that stay the same. In the Bible, the Lord makes us a promise that no matter how the world changes, or even if it should pass away, that He will always be with us and will remain the same. We can always rely on His unfailing love for us. We can depend that He cares about us, and how we feel. And furthermore, He promises to always hear our prayers. It kind of makes you wonder what else we might be able to save or change about this world, if we’d only just ask Him.