Tuesday, August 12, 2014

"Are You That Wildflower Lady?"

Hepatica, blooming on the Munger Trail last spring.
Early one weekend morning last spring, I was biking along the Munger Trail, and I stopped to look closely at a spot where I knew some Hepatica flowers would soon blossom. As I was peering at the ground, with my iPhone camera at the ready, a woman came jogging along. I turned and said "Hello," and she slowed her pace briefly to ask me, "What are you taking pictures of?" 

"Wildflowers," I said.
"What's blooming?" she asked.
"Nothing yet," I responded, "but soon there will be lots of flowers here." 

Trillium, Munger Trail.
She nodded and continued on her way. A few weeks later, when the Trilliums were in blossom, she and I crossed paths again, though I was on my bike at the time, and we nodded to each other. Just as she passed me, she called back:  "Are you that wildflower lady?" 

"Yes," I said, over my shoulder.
"They're beautiful!" she shouted.
"Yes, they are!" I responded.

The Big Picture, taken a few days ago.
Very few spandex people, as I call them, ever ask me what I'm doing as I poke around in the ditches and up along the sloping sides of the Trail. They're moving too fast to notice much, and they're so focused on maintaining their pace, or meeting their personal fitness goals, that they don't see all the beauty that surrounds them on the Trail. Oh, they get the big picture, I suppose, but they miss some amazing details as they zip by.  

I suppose, to some extent, I shouldn't feel superior. They have different goals than I do, and I couldn't move as fast as they do, even if I wanted to. And perhaps I'm glad that they don't notice all the wildflowers--some rare and fragile plants manage to survive under the radar, as it were, and too much human attention isn't good for wild things. I know there are a few other wildflower freaks out there because I occasionally see their tracks through the grass, leading up to a spot where, say, a Yellow Lady Slipper grows...
Yellow Lady Slipper, Munger Trail.

So I know I'm not alone in appreciating Mother Nature's small details. But there's no doubt that most folks feel rushed and pressured through their lives, and squeezing in a Saturday-morning jog can be a real challenge in our rat-race of a culture, where folks feel they need to be working all the time. Multi-tasking has become a way of life for far too many of us. All too often, we feel that we have so many "promises to keep" that we can't explore the "woods" that are so "lovely, dark and deep." (Let's see who's paying attention:  the first member of the class of 2015 who provides the author and title of the poem I just quoted in a comment on this post gets 1 extra point.) 

I see a lot of these snails as I look for flowers...
We're going to do a lot of things this year, and there will be times when you have to multi-task, but when you're reading and writing, I don't want you to be like the spandex people! Behave like a wildflower freak: slow down, get off your bike every few minutes, and go looking through the underbrush, through the deep, dark nooks and crannies of the text to see what fascinating details you can find. The details are the key to understanding the big picture. 
Ghost Plant (Indian Pipes), Munger Trail, taken a few days
ago. Rather rare, it grows in dark places & needs no
chlorophyll. It's a myco-heterotroph: it gets its energy
from a fungus in the soil. I think Munger Trail is very rich
in fungi...

I can't tell you how many times I've gone down the Trail in one direction, thinking the flower I'm looking for just isn't blooming yet, only to find it staring at me when I come back the other way. Shifting your perspective reveals wonders...

So, I have one piece of advice for you (Don't be a spandex person!) and one question for you to answer. I want you to work on answering this question all year 

  • in your blog, 
  • in your Capstone Project, 
  • in your Senior Speech...
...And here it is:  I'm the wildflower lady--WHO ARE YOU?! Don't try to take the Emily Dickinson way out. (She didn't mean it, anyway...) That's a big-picture question. Work your way up to an answer from the little details, if you need to.


  1. Come on, this has been up an hour, how had the extra credit not been claimed??

  2. Robert Frost's "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening"

  3. Hmmm...a little bird told me that a certain Physics teacher emailed some students to let them know there was an extra-credit opportunity in this post.