When I was asked on a recent survey to name some “best practices” for coping with the coronavirus restrictions, I was tempted to respond: “looking for wildflowers.”
Thanks to the initiative of “Mrs. D,” a teacher friend who would take her second-grade students on wildflower outings, I was introduced years ago to a pastime that has both delighted and occupied me for many springs. Mrs. D’s gift of an Audubon Field Guide to North American Wildflowers, now well-thumbed and filled with markers, taught me how to identify the flowers that have become the focus of one of my cherished spring rituals.
Making these discoveries on my own, by studying the Audubon guide’s pictures and descriptions of leaves, petals, height, flowering time, habitat, and range, connected me to the flora of the woods in a way that deepened my observations.
This year, I have appreciated this annual diversion even more because it has redirected my thoughts from the fear and anxiety that swirl around us. Amazingly, it seemed, the wildflowers still came up this year, oblivious to any sense of danger or foreboding, and I happily joined them as they made their 2020 debut.
By the time our governor issued his first stay-at-home order March 23, I was noticing the emergence of the foliage of Spring Beauty, one of the earliest wildflowers to appear in the woods where I look for these end-of-winter harbingers. About two weeks later, I saw my first Spring Beauty bloom along with flowers on another early bloomer – Purple Cress.
After that, I knew it wouldn’t be long before I would be seeing Dutchman’s Breeches, Common Blue and Yellow Violets, Swamp Buttercup, Jack-in-the-Pulpit, Wild Oats, Trillium, Phlox, Mayapple, Wild Geranium, and Wild Ginger.
Although the first sighting of one of these flowers is always exciting, there’s nothing like seeing a drift of them at their peak when they carpet the floor of the woods. The vision of this seasonal show in full flower is all the better when I have seen it emerge from the dreary brown leaves of March and unfold into something quietly spectacular in April and May.
Whether I glance or gaze at the display, I’m often reminded of that familiar verse from the Bible about the lilies of the field. “They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his glory was adorned like one of these.” Those words from the gospel of Luke are part of a passage telling us not to worry about our lives, what we will eat or drink, about our bodies, and what we will wear. It seems incredibly relevant for these days when so many of us have been and are worried about all those things and more because of the coronavirus. Spring’s wildflowers remind me each year that something incredibly beautiful in this world happens without my planning, my effort, my toil, or my worrying. This year, they are fulfilling that purpose to an even greater extent by prompting me to recall how the passage about the lilies ends: “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself.”