Things I Love

Calypso bulbosa
Calypso bulbosa

We live in a culture that worships anything new and novel. Things change at a blistering speed. Before you have time to get used to one thing, the next thing comes along.

Walking along the trail at human speed today, one foot in front of the other for a couple of miles, I was thinking about the familiar. How many times have I been up and down the Waptus River trail in the last 23 years? As many times as it takes to know the twists and turns of the trail, the ups and downs, the small landmarks. I should find it the same old tedious trail, but I do not. Even though it’s so familiar, it’s different every time. The weather, the quality of light, the particular moment in whatever season it is–different every time.

Seasons are not static. The woods are moving from late spring to early summer. It’s time for calypso orchids and hermit thrushes, and I greet both of them with a soaring heart.

Calypso orchids, or fairy slippers appear in the deep forest in May. I first made their acquaintance as a child following my grandmother across the creek to a spot where she had transplanted some. It was a wild and secret place where she nurtured these small treasures. They were rare and precious to her. Now I work in a place where they bloom in great profusion for a few weeks, and I cannot help but get down on the ground in order to see them closely. Such pink petals! Such a freckled pouch that makes the slipper part, the crimson lines to draw the pollinators in.

And the thrushes–heard the first hermit of the year this very day. They have returned from their wintering places to nest and raise young. Furtive brown birds, they spend most of their time high in the tree canopy. You can hear the song here, but imagine a sort of hollow echo and you will get a sense of how they sound in the woods. Haunting, but not sad. They sing for their own kind, but others who walk through the forest overhear the melodies.

I could spend the rest of my life seeing the same flowers and hearing the same birds. Being in love with the familiar makes it impossible to be jaded and bored. All seems right with the world because the orchids are blooming and the thrushes are back, right on time. And I am glad.

9 thoughts on “Things I Love

  1. Thanks for the flower and the Thrush’s song. As beautiful as the Swainson’s Thrush this side of the mountain!

  2. Deb, In essence you are talking about a form of intimacy with your local environment. It is very grounding to know an area well enough that there is familiarity. At the same time there is change because of the seasons.
    There is so much beauty here. We must not take it for granted. You certainly don’t. You approach this as if it is part of you family or a very good friend. You are a deep, very spiritual person. This is one of the many things I like about you! Take care and enjoy your hikes! – Hilary

  3. I love the familiar too. I walk the same stretch of road almost every day, twice a day with the dogs and haven’t tired of it yet. I don’t know all the names of the plants or birds or even when to expect them, but I’m happy to see them when they bloom and sing. Right now it’s the small wild irises. And the California quail always make me smile. As Hilary said above, it’s a form of intimacy with the local environment.
    Have you read the book, “Fieldguide to the Familiar” or something like that?

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