I have often heard or read the phrase “He or she has a good relationship with the land.” As I devote more and more of my free time to exploring wild places, I more deeply understand what that means. A good relationship is an investment, a commitment to be in union with, to respect and care deeply about the well-being of another – in this case, this planet we inhabit and the impact I, individually, have on it. I receive far more than I will ever be able to give back to this beautiful earth, though I try to do what I can. But today’s post is not about environmental problems. It is about friendship.
In April and May on the Washington coast spring is in high gear and everything seems to change so rapidly. A few warm days can mean the difference between naked budding limbs and branches filled with colorful blossoms, or between a nest with speckled eggs and the gaping yellow beaks that hatch from them, squalling for meals. They are months that begin in the boggy places with the pungent yellow, scoop-shaped blooms of skunk cabbage, also given the playful moniker “swamp lantern”. They are the months that fill the woodlands with the enchantment of white trilliums, fairy bells and tiny yellow wood violets hidden like shy kittens under the tree canopy.
To me, springtime is like a favorite story I know by heart, yet I can’t wait to read again. It culminates with giant showy blooms of cow parsnip, thorny pink sprawls of wild roses and the stately bell towers of fox glove dramatically dressing trails, fence lines and roadside ditches. Near the ocean shore, carpets of tiny wild strawberry blossoms spread across the sand beneath slender twining stalks of purple vetch swaying among new green blades of dune grass.
I adore wild flowers. They are like beloved friends that come for a brief visit every year. I wait for them, look forward to seeing each variety as they cycle through. Even the ever-green shrubs of salal and huckleberry dress themselves for a short time in delicate white bells that hang like jewelry along their branches.
I have read that skunk cabbage has the ability to generate heat in the air around it as much as 50 degrees to melt snow away from its leaves and entice early insects to pollinate it. I have stood beside stalks of cow parsnip well over 8 feet tall and read that the plant is sometimes called “Indian celery” and was valued by Natives as a vegetable. Rose hips are high in vitamin C and Fox glove (Digitalis) is well known as the basis for some heart medications.
As I write this, the cow parsnip is at its peak. The plant simply thrills me. Its impressive height and giant leaves make me think of things Jurassic. The huge, sweet smelling blossoms conjure images of something old fashioned, like crocheted hats or white lace doilies. Nature is marvelously artistic and inspiring.
So it is with continuing gratitude that I anticipate each month’s changing wild display, delighting in the endless opportunities I have to walk this planet in tender awe and to cherish it in genuine friendship.
Mossy whispers: Nature’s beauty is always ready for you, waiting for you to notice it. The dappled moss is happy for your feet upon its back. Get to know the ditches and the marshes. It is a friendship that will always bless your efforts.