Foxtail Barley Blizzard / Sensory Intoxication


The setting for this unusual event is the same river course and flood plain that is bonanza of flooding, mudding and erosion. Only twice have I observed the Foxtail Barley Blizzard, during two consecutive summers, when flood water subsided early enough for dormant seeds to explode across acres of sand, mud and alkali deposits that fill the valley. And – there were storms that actually brought rain. Moisture often evaporates before it can reach the ground surface.

The first evening that I came upon the “blizzard” I could not at first identify what I was seeing; a cloudlike substance had collected in an arroyo near the highway, just before it empties into the river.

I waded into millions of ripe seeds that the winded had loosened and stripped from the fields of wild barley, at just the right moment, and piled against the arroyo wall.

I returned late the next afternoon, when I knew the angle of sunlight would be perfect.

The area typically looks like this…

I felt intoxicated by sensory “bliss” It was like being transported to another earth…

The following summer, I began taking photos earlier…

and the wind again gathered the ripe seeds, but wafted them into tamarisk that have invaded the banks.