I had the honor to sing for a colleague's memorial service yesterday. The setting was the National Wildflower Research Center, established by Ladybird Johnson. Now a part of the University of Texas at Austin, it is a contemplative retreat, sustained by green technology, and a repository of precious wildflowers and seeds, sculpture, and education. It is a place to renew one's hope and reconnect with what is most beautiful about Texas. There is a water catchment system that irrigates the beds, and paths throughout the acreage, with commemorative benches placed here and there.
Ladybird was well-loved in this town, a gracious gentlewoman who has brightened not only Texas, but the U.S. with her love and sowing of wildflower seeds along our highways. There is nothing more breath-taking than driving around Texas in March or so, if we've had enough rain over the winter, and drowning in bluebonnets, Indian blankets, Indian paintbrushes, evening primroses, winecups, and all the other gorgeous weeds that grow here.
She was key in putting in the infamous 8.5 mile Hike and Bike Trail along both sides of the Colorado River that runs through the middle of town. To call the Colorado River at that point "Town Lake" is a misnomer. However, it opened up the opportunity to rename Town Lake as Ladybird Johnson Lake. A most fitting complement to the wildflower research center. Along the trails you can find trees with labels to tell you what they are, Stevie Ray Vaughn's statue, an off-leash dog park, benches, serious and not so serious walkers and runners, lots of jogging baby strollers, and the largest urban bat population that lives under the Congress Street bridge.
She was a lovely and loving woman, and we are much the better for her good works. The Wildflower Center was a stunning and appropriate gathering place to celebrate the life of our friend in joy and beauty.