When I was younger, much younger, May was my favorite month. A childhood spent
in chilly, upstate New York conditioned me to love the delicious weeks in May when
Lillies-of-the-valley and Forget-me-nots bloomed by the side of the garage
and Trilliums brightened the woods behind our house. Then, two things happened:
the world grew warmer, which seemed to push mid-spring back into April,
and I grew more sensitive to the tentative early hints that precede the
full-on abundance of mid-spring. Tender, lime-green leaves, cherry tree blossoms,
and the subtle blush of brighter skies excite me. April is my favorite month
and if I’m here another ten or twenty years
it might be March!
April on Fidalgo Island means Fawn lilies, Calypso orchids, and Shooting stars:
three beloved beacons of spring. If that’s not enough, there’s a long, colorful parade
of small wildflowers that thrive on wet winters and springs and tolerate bone-dry summers.
In this manic month, I leapfrog from site to site, wanting to see it all.
Lucky for me, one location boasts a vivid display of flowers, thanks to its geology and siting.
Surrounded on three sides by water, forested in the middle, and encircled by grassy bluffs,
Washington Park is my go-to spot for spring botanizing.
On slopes by the water, the thin, poor soil left behind by glaciers
created an inhospitable environment for trees. With bent trunks and twisted branches,
they grow sparsely, leaving plenty of room for wildflowers to bask in the openings.
Small flowers that don’t mind poor soil flourish in the sun or huddle under a few trees
on the meadow’s edge. Some flowers connect with fungal networks underground,
finding nourishment there. It’s all about adapting to a complex system and it’s a good thing
that this small ecosystem by the Salish Sea is relatively intact.
I poke around, trying to see it all,
visiting the flower show as often as I can
before the stars of the show shrivel up
This year, April brought gentle rains and cool, overcast days interrupted by exhilarating sunbreaks.
It was great weather for plants, if not for people longing for a perfect weekend. By the first week,
a dozen favorite flowers were already blooming. On the seventh day of the month, my darting eyes
fixated on the first ornate, pink-and-orange whiskered flowers of a Calypso orchid, a charming
flash of pink on the green and brown forest floor. Nearby, fanciful white pagoda hats
dangled from thin stems under the fir trees. The Fawn lilies had returned, too.
My breath released a shower of “Ahs.”
A Calypso orchid slideshow
A Fawn lily slideshow
By the middle of the month, upswept, magenta petals hovering over
the dagger points of stamens and pistils proved that another favorite was back –
Not only were they blooming at the edge of a meadow in the park,
they were growing in the high desert shrub-steppe, too,
sheltered under the pale, fuzzy leaves of gnarled Big sage bushes.
A Shooting star (Primula pauciflora) slideshow from Ancient Lakes, Washington
Shooting stars begin the slideshow below too, and I added some local fauna:
a Black oystercatcher, a Great blue heron, and a Gray whale that passed
through the channel one afternoon. I heard it first (there is something deeply,
reassuringly resonant about hearing an ocean-going mammal exhaling nearby).
There’s a photo of a pile of feathers on the ground, too, the remains of
some creature’s meal. I’m not a wildlife photographer but I pay close attention
to the beings I share space with – at least the ones that I can see!
Birds, especially. I love the way they animate the space –
have you ever thought about what a bird’s passage through the sky does to that “empty” space?
Suddenly, it has life and dimension. It wakes up.
The birds I photographed weren’t in flight but I’m sure you can imagine them arriving and departing.
Spring wildflowers arrive, too and they’re on time every year,
give or take a few days.
Once their reproductive work is done they pack up the show
and go home to the earth. There’s barely enough time
to see all the exhibits before the flowers fade.
But even fading flowers
are part of the endless show just outside our doors,
all given freely.
February was exciting, March was a promise kept, and April was more than I could wish for.