Sowing Beauty: The Unofficial Story of Lady Bird and the Texas Wildflowers


This time of the year, when wildflowers are in their prime along the Texas highways, I think of Lady Bird Johnson.  Now my version of the story bears no resemblance to the truth, but I’m sure it’s a much livelier picture than the weeks of debate in Congress, the budgeting and resulting projects.

I imagine the First Lady getting up one fine morning late in September and saying, “Lyndon, I can’t stand it.  The Highway Beautification Act was passed by the Senate weeks ago, but y’all are still talking.”

“You know I’m pushing as hard as I can – these things take time…”

“Well, my dear, I got tired of waiting.  I figure if you want something done, best do it yourself.  Keys to the Caddy?’

“Oh Lord, what now?”

“If you can help me move that big bag from the trunk, I’ll get someone to drive.  Here’s a cup.”

“What the hell for?”

“I’ll leave getting rid of those ugly billboards and junkyards up to you.  I’ve got a project of my own and I’m using my own special blend.”

“Of what?”

“Seeds, Lyndon.  Seeds!  This is exactly the right time to sow wildflowers in Texas, and I’m going to do some beautification of my own.  No public works projects or construction crews needed.  You’ll see it – about March or April.  Hop in.”

I imagine Lady Bird and LBJ riding along the highways of Texas for a few days in September, laughing and talking and sowing beauty from their Cadillac convertible.

Now for a little of the real story.

Before signing the Highway Beautification Act on October 22, 1965, President Lyndon Baines Johnson made some remarks that are still relevant today.  “In our eagerness to expand and improve, we have relegated nature to a weekend role, banishing it from our daily lives. I think we are a poorer nation as a result.”  After signing the bill, he planted a kiss on Lady Bird’s cheek.

Lady Bird Johnson made it clear that “beautification” was the wrong word and not the “cosmetic” solution she had in mind.  She pushed for “clean water, clean air, clean roadsides, safe waste disposal and preservation of valued old landmarks as well as great parks and wilderness areas.”  She succeeded in making this country a more beautiful place and was known as The Environmental First Lady.  Her legacy lives on in the bluebonnets, scarlet Indian Paintbrush and pink primroses that bloom each year along the roadside.  You can also get a glimpse of the flowers she loved so much and feel her spirit at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center in south Austin, Texas. 

Thank you, Lady Bird.  Earth Day should be dedicated to you.


Call the Midwife

Call the Midwife

If you have the opportunity to see the BBC series, “Call the Midwife,” I highly recommend it.  No fear – this is no graphic or gratuitous reality show.  Instead, it’s an engaging drama based on the memoirs of nurse midwife Jennifer Worth, and set in the poverty-stricken neighborhoods of East London in the 1950’s.  The series follows the stories of young midwives fresh out of nursing school living with the Sisters of the Nonnatus House convent and serving the families in this working-class community.  “Call the Midwife” shows us a rough area of post-war London through the eyes of Jenny, who has never dealt with poverty or hardship.  As difficult as it may be, she and the other young midwives put judgment aside and learn to serve the women and their families with skill, compassion and the help of the experienced nuns.

The writing is superb, the casting perfect, and the stories draw me right in.  All of the main characters are wonderfully brought to life, but my favorite has to be the blunt Sister Evangelina, played by Pam Ferris.  I’ve only watched 3 episodes so far, but find myself laughing and tearing up regularly at the touching portrayal of birth, death and everything in between.

Jenny and the Sisters

The Art of the Hospitality and the Holiday Home

After my last post, you know that my friend Els is a creative person, gifted at the art of hospitality.  I couldn’t resist posting a couple of pictures of her home, decorated for the holiday and ready for guests.  Lovely!

Easter Table

Ready for Guests