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.1
Several years ago I wrote about the onset of spring in words that still resonate in this corner of Northumberland County, Ontario.
A mad motorcyclist shattered the country quiet with the thunder of his exhaust. Oblivious to spring beauties blooming along his path, he thundered through the woodlands. Ar-h-h-roa-r-rs echoed through the waking valleys. Awakening himself from winter’s siesta, he threw himself at the steepest parts of the hill below us. I caught a glimpse of his red helmet as he rocketed over the crest scattering gravel to the four winds. Scars on the path and a flung beer can marked his passing.
We now had an answer to our spring ditty; “Spring has sprung. The grass is riz. I wonder where the motorcyclist is?”
Dirt bike jockeys were not alone in feeling the stir of hormones. Our phone and email account went berserk. After cruising through winter in low gear, semi-hibernating Canadians felt an adrenaline rush. Why? I wondered if it was the thought of the approaching summer. Perhaps they realized that in order to enjoy the lazy, hazy days of summer they had to race through a catch-up spring. But why couldn’t people schedule conventions in February and meetings in March? Didn’t they realize that spring is wildflower time?
She comes with gusts of laughter, –
The music as of rills;
With tenderness and sweetness,
The wisdom of the hills.2
Delicate brush strokes of spring green had begun to touch the dead fields and naked trees. Flowery pendants hung from aspens and soft maples. Rainbow trout fought their way up the Ganaraska to hurl themselves at the fish ladder. A rose-breasted grosbeak visited a feeder. Robin and Robinette ferried straw to their secret nest. All the signs pointed to wildflower week. The time had come to cancel appointments and head outdoors.
Wildflowers would soon peek through the warming humus in a race to flower before the forest canopy closed out the warming sun. Bloodroot was the first to unfold their white petals to the sun. Soon after, clusters of delicate spring beauties and then pink and white hepaticas fringed the forest pathways. Shortly, dog-toothed violets carpeted the rich soil below the maples with blades of spotted green before they gathered strength to unveil their shy saffron flowers.
But society seemed determined to distract us from this spring pageant. Marketing types turned up the pressure. Merchandising flyers littered our mailboxes. Malls planned massive sales. Real Estate agents moved into high gear.
The house needed spring cleaning. The lawn cried out for attention—rolling and aerating and fertilizing and cutting. The flower beds beckoned accusingly whenever I glanced out the window. [We now live in a condo where this is taken care of.] A flood of frantic activity engulfed us—just when we ought to have been taking 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. After all, Mary Helen and I hadn’t done too well ourselves. But that year we were determined to take time to watch spring steal over the hillsides as we walked the trails. Timing would be crucial. When all the signs proclaimed, “Its wildflower time,” we’d ignore the phone. Allow the e-mail to pile up. Leave letters unanswered and bills unpaid. We’d ruthlessly cancel our commitments.
We’d search out that hushed valley where a meandering brook gurgled its way past wild ginger and jack-in-the-pulpits. We’d hunt for tiny stands of dutchman’s breeches or squirrel corn. We’d kneel down to smell the violets. We’d rest on a log while we feasted our eyes on a hillside covered with waving trilliums. We’d search for their red cousins. We’d try to find starflowers, toothwort, bellflowers and solomon’s seal.
But then, like every year before, the demands of society besieged our plans. We fought valiantly to break free—and we did manage to set aside several days to wander in the woodlands. We discovered a new flower and we tasted tranquility!
We would 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.3
[An excerpt from Through A Country Window, Eric E. Wright, chapter 24, p170ff. For more information or to buy a copy see http://www.countrywindow.ca. Print copies available in Northumberland County, Ontario, email your order to firstname.lastname@example.org Ebooks available through Amazon, https://www.amazon.com/Through-Country-Window-Inspiring-Stories/dp/1554528062 ]
1.Algernon Charles Swinburne, Atalanta in Calydon, 1865, st. 4
2. Bliss Carman, “Over the wintry threshold”, Smart set, April 1913
3. Ben Johnson, quoted in The Book of Virtues, p. 431