This post first appeared in The Finger Lakes Times as part of the weekly series, “Denim Spirit.”
We scoured the woods surrounding the celery bog looking for bloodroot and spring beauties, the delicate wild flowers that normally peek out of the brown leaf litter carpeting the forest floor this time of year. We found one small white bloom not yet fully opened.
The next day we made our way through Happy Hollow, another heavily forested municipal park with a seasonally swollen stream roaring through it. In over a mile of walking we found only a precious small scattering of blooms.
No matter. These walks through the unnaturally brisk and frosted air, were in western Indiana where my mother-in-law and her husband live. At 88 and 92 they walk at least twice a day, in the morning and again in the afternoon or evening. At the celery bog they look for water fowl sometimes debating the identity of what they see, and, walking through the woods on the way to and from the water, for flowers. They marveled the absence of spring flowers this late in the season. In that part of the Midwest they should have arrived weeks ago.
Then onto Ohio, to the magnificent Mohican State Park featuring an unusually hilly topography for that otherwise flat furrowed state. An old growth forest with a thick blanket of moldering detritus covered the ancient roots of hardwood grandmothers and great grandfathers whose canopy was still as naked as a winter’s day. Only skunk cabbage leaves and a few yet-to-bloom wild flower shoots offered a green contrast. Furtively searching the pathways for blooms of white, purple, or yellow we came up empty. This time it was with plucky young twenty-somethings who bounced tirelessly ahead of my wife and I, Pooh and Piglet to their Tiger and Roo.
For a week we searched for spring and its compliment of woodland wild flowers in a land that dependably welcomes the season three and four weeks ahead of the Finger Lakes. While we did enjoy a couple of sunny afternoons with brilliant blue skies, it was cold enough not to melt the snow that visited off and on the other days. Oh, and in Indiana we were sent into the basement of the retirement community as funnel clouds strafed the area. At least that felt more like spring.
Today the patio furniture we ordered arrived and I considered whether or not to assemble it yet. Nah. At this rate we have at least a month to go before we could enjoy sitting outside without winter jackets and hats. It will come, sooner or later, it will arrive – sunshine, no hint of cold, and the threat of snow never even entering our thoughts. We have made it to the point on the calendar that even if the weather is unseasonably cold and grumpy, we know that a more generous wind will blow eventually.
With my mother-in-law and her husband as inspiration, I will keep walking whether or not I find any signs of spring. My dog, who walks me two or three times a day, enjoys sitting on the cemetery bench whether it is warm or not. Cloudy, sunny, warm, or cold, it is the small things and numerous quiet rhythms of life, that deliver joy.