For winter’s rains and ruins are over,
And all the season of snows and sins;
The days dividing lover and lover,
The light that loses, the night that wins;
And time remembered is grief forgotten,
And frosts are slain and flowers begotten,
And in green underwood and cover
Blossom by blossom the spring begins.
(Algernon Charles Swinburne, Atalanta in Calydon, 1865, st. 4)
Spring is wildflower time! Delicate brush strokes of spring green touch the dead fields and naked trees. Flowery pendants hang from aspens and soft maples. Rainbow trout fight their way up the Ganaraska to hurl themselves at the fish ladder. A rose-breasted grosbeak visits our feeder. Robin and Robinette ferry straw to their secret nest. All the signs point to wildflower week. The time had come to cancel appointments and head outdoors.
Wildflowers are beginning to peek through the warming humus in a race to flower before the forest canopy closes out the warming sun. Bloodroot is the first to unfold its white petals to the sun. Soon after, clusters of delicate spring beauties and then pink and white hepaticas fringe the forest pathways. Shortly, dog-toothed violets carpet the rich soil below the maples with blades of spotted green before they gathered strength to unveil their shy saffron flowers.
Society seemed determined to distract us from this spring pageant. Marketing types turn up the pressure. Merchandising flyers litter our mailboxes. Malls plan massive sales. Real Estate agents move into high gear.
The house needs spring cleaning. The lawn cries out for attention—rolling and aerating and fertilizing and cutting. The flower beds beckon accusingly whenever I glance out the window. A flood of frantic activity engulfs us—just when we ought to take a break to walk in our woodlands.
Every year we tell ourselves, “Next year we’ll make sure we take time for an unhurried stroll through a fairyland of nodding Trilliums.” And every year the demands make mincemeat of our firmest resolves.
The woodland wildflowers that carpet our hardwood forests in the spring bloom only during the narrow window of time after the warming sun brings them to life and before the overarching trees throw out a leafy curtain to shut out that selfsame sun. We have, perhaps, two weeks to enjoy one of God’s greatest displays. The timing will vary from year to year, depending on the weather. It could be really early, an El Nino spring in late April, or a delayed spring extending into mid-May.
Whenever it comes, we should call a halt to our madness and declare one whole week: “Wildflower Week”! Then everyone could take a holiday from work and shopping to walk the woodland trails. The experience might change our whole national psyche! Natural beauty might wean us from our consumer habits. We might regain perspective. Even marriages might be healed if husbands would walk hand in hand with their wives and children through a sylvan cathedral strewn with wildflowers. Children might be weaned away from cyber-fantasy to develop a taste for the glory of creation. Most important, the Creator might break through the defenses we have thrown up to shield us from pondering the great questions. Who? What? Why? How? How long?
Wishful thinking? Perhaps, but we’d like to propose a new holiday—Wildflower Week. It would revolutionize western civilization!
It is not growing like a tree
In bulk, doth make man better be;
Or standing long an oak, three hundred year,
To fall a log at last, dry, bald, and sear:
A lily of a day
Is fairer far in May,
Although it fall and die that night–
It was the plant and flower of Light.
In small proportions we just beauties see,
And in short measures life may perfect be.
(Ben Johnson, quoted in The Book of Virtues, p. 431)