April 19, 2017
Three weeks ago, when I broke my collarbone, Winter was still in charge of the forest, with Spring shyly peeping between the trees, barely showing the hem of her petticoat. When we returned to the mountains, Spring had taken center stage, kicking up her heels, showing flounces, ruffles, and lace in a wild display of joyous life!
The brown leaf covering of the forest floor is transformed into a carpet of glowing, vibrant GREEN! Mayapples unfurl their umbrellas. Twin bunny-ear-shaped ramps poke above spotted trout lily leaves. Heart-shaped violet leaves give way to compound shaggy Dutchman’s breeches. And everywhere, the small narrow lance-like leaf blades of spring beauties fill in the background.
That emerald backdrop is the canvas for some truly beautiful blooms. Yellow-white Dutchman’s breeches hang from slender stems, like laundry out to dry. Pink-striped white spring beauties cover the ground, imitating scattered snow flakes. Purple, yellow, and white violets lift painted faces to the sun, while yellow trout lilies hang their heads but curl their petals back in a shy invitation to the bees. Hugging the ground, tiny gaywings add spots of purple, and giant red trilliums nod above them all.
On our first day back on the trail, Jay and I were awed and enthralled. We stopped to rest on a fallen log, surrounded by acres, miles, of beauty, a cathedral of life. Jay spoke for us both. “I’m glad we didn’t miss this.”
February 27, 2017
We hike for miles through winter dormant forest, passing endless gray tree trunks rising from a carpet of brown dead leaves, occasionally punctuated by dappled rocks. I know the forest is not dead, and yet, the neutral colors for unmeasured miles makes me forget the boundless life just below the surface.
Suddenly, I see a single strawberry plant, bravely sending out leaves in an excess of buoyant hope of spring. A slate colored boulder is enlivened with a shaggy fringe of green ferns flopping over its edge, as if wearing a wig. Bright orange fungus beckons my eyes. In just a few weeks, a boundless carpet of wildflowers will dominate the landscape. In the midst of winter dormancy, I suddenly realize that LIFE is happening!
Our trail turns up Standing Indian Mountain, and we see evidence of the forest fires which dominated the news just a few months ago at the end of the drought. A slight dusting of brown leaves cover black ashes across the forest floor. Carbonized logs crisscross beneath coal-black tree trunks. I wonder, what has survived? Will wildflower seeds still germinate without the deep layers of leaf mould to protect them?
And yet, even in this devastation, I see signs of LIFE peeping out. A log, seared charcoal on its underside, has bright green moss growing across its top! (That is one tough plant!) Half-burned clumps of rhododendron leaves support healthy looking buds above. A moss-filtered spring cascades over rock in a glittering beaded curtain of water. Yes, life is chosen.
The chorus of a 1782 hymn by Matthias Claudius accompanies me up the rest of the mountain:
All good gifts around us are sent from heaven above,
Then thank the Lord, oh thank the Lord, for all His love.