Taking a pause from thinking about the virus to reflect on nature.
When I was a kid, my parents would tell stories to my brother and me about how they went hiking in their younger years. They became quite skilled in finding and identifying wildflowers and birds on these adventures, and they frequently shared this knowledge with us. Our bookshelves were lined with Peterson field guides which were tremendous fun to peruse, long before the internet. These experiences sparked a love and respect for nature in me that continued into adulthood.
In seventh grade, my science teacher had us go through a series of collection and identification projects, including tree leaves and wildflowers. How blessed was I to have parents who jumped in so enthusiastically into these projects with me! I had, by far, the best collection of wildflowers of anyone in my class. My parents knew how to find all of the unusual flowers. It’s where I learned about wild ginger, mayflowers, trillium, jack-in-the-pulpit, and the elusive pink lady’s slipper.
In the state of Virginia, the pink lady’s slipper is considered endangered. I’m sure habitat destruction has played a part. But I’ve also learned that this particular flower, a member of the orchid family, is rather particular when it comes to its ideal growing conditions. It grows in patches of woods with dappled sunshine and a fair amount of forest debris. It needs a particular type of fungus found in the decaying underbrush to grow. If you find one, don’t pick it! It will never return. She is a delicate flower, indeed.
The pink lady’s slipper evolved to almost legend status in my opinion. I had never seen one in person. It was like a mythical forest creature you could never catch. Imagine my fascination when I learned that my soon to be husband had some growing in the yard of the house where he grew up. I took it as a sign that our marriage was meant to be.
Fast forward a few years, and we now have a home next door to my in-laws. I kept hoping that we would have pink lady’s slippers growing on our property, but it didn’t seem that it was ever going to happen.
In March of 2018, our 18 year old cat Tigger passed over the rainbow bridge. The kids and I held him as he transitioned with the help of the vet. I left it up to the girls what they wanted to do with him, as we were given a choice between cremation or burying him ourselves. Anna held him in his blanket, and we took him home. He is now buried in a marked grave in the woods behind our home.
Later in April of that year, Anna suddenly ran into the house and breathlessly announced that we had pink lady’s slippers! A single flower appeared right beside Tigger’s grave, the first of these beautiful flowers in 11 years of living here. I took it as a sign that he was at peace. I decided to wander our property to see if there were any more, and, lo and behold, we had several more in various parts of our woods. I was ecstatic!
As I wandered our property today, I was excited to see the familiar sight of the leaves of several pink lady’s slippers, and a couple of these already have flowers. It will be fun in the coming weeks to see dots of pink in our woods! It’s unusual to have so much time on my hands that I can actually savor their emergence and evolution into full grown flowers this year. Sometimes pausing in life allows us to appreciate the little things. I feel tremendously blessed by Mother Nature that she has chosen our home to host this beautiful flower.
What’s in bloom near your home? Have you spotted any beautiful flowers on your quarantine walks? I’d love to hear about it! Hope everyone is safe and healthy.