When the woods ‘spring’ to life
Is there any spot on the earth that compare with Western Pennsylvania on a warm, sunny spring day? One such day can make up for all the depressing days of “Pittsburgh gray” skies that preceded it. This spring has been particularly spectacular, perhaps because it came a little later than usual.
In our woods, the first signs of color are “snow drops.” Their vivid white flowers are a pleasant contrast to the blanket of dead leaves that they penetrate. Next come the lesser celadine, also known as pilewort. Their lovely, eight-petalled flowers bloom in large quantities, providing a golden carpet in shaded areas.
This year, the trillium bloomed in mid-May. They are confined to one small area on a south-facing hillside. A few years ago, we spotted a stranger in their midst, one with wine-colored petals whose tips curve back together. The “trillium recurvatum” is common in the Midwest but rare in this area. Unfortunately, we have not been able to locate any samples of it in the past several years.
Right on schedule, the mayapple plants popped up overnight and spread their miniature palm tree leaves in numerous little colonies. A couple of days later, a few bifurcated plants joined them and, on May 6, produced blooms that will turn into mayapples later in the summer.
Next on the scene are the forget-me-nots and violets, followed by the pink and white phlox. It is a wonderful coincidence that Mother Nature staggers the wildflower blooming sequence so we always have something new to enjoy.
It is fascinating to watch the transformation in the woods when the leaves begin to come out. At first the change is minor; the brown/gray background begins to be tinted with tiny bits of green. Each day, this grows slowly, then suddenly all the leaves open up, and you find yourself immersed in a sea of green.
I wonder how much of my enjoyment of spring is the concept of renewal and hope for the future it provides. Ecclesiastes 3, 1-8, was one of my father’s favorite bits of Scripture: “To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven.” We seem to be in “a time to hate”; let’s hope the “time to love” comes back soon.
No sign (or sound) of our woodpecker yet this year; I miss hearing her distinctive drumming. Our deer have survived the latest phase of the municipality’s “culling” program. We should be seeing newly born fawns soon.
Every year, the March winds take their toll on the trees in our woods. Some of them are the result of natural pruning; dead trees that have outlived their usefulness. Unfortunately, we lose a lot of healthy, mature black cherry trees due to uprooting. This spring, two big ones came down in the same storm.
I continue to pretend that my walks in the woods qualify as exercise and that, therefore, I don’t need to pedal a stationary bike. I suspect that the combination of my wandering off to check if the mayapple bud has opened and my enjoying sitting on the bench at the picnic pavilion enjoying the day is counterproductive to the concept of exercise. At least I am exercising my mind!