Article and photos by Joe Mish
The doorway to spring is unlocked at the time of the vernal equinox and begins to slowly open on creaking, weather worn hinges. As the door opens, winter’s final icy breath rushes though without hesitation. The cold gusty wind is an intruder who is soon vanquished by spring’s eternal promise of warming conditions favorable to the earth’s explosion of new life.
March is handed winter’s eviction notice as it departs, however, given ten days to respond, little if anything is changed. The task then falls to April to conclude winter’s lingering intrusion.
April wrestles mightily with remnants of last season’s cold, the winner of each daily round, is at best unpredictable.
Though the battle is as real as the chill in the air, the spectators have bet their life on the eventual outcome.
Tension still remains, fired by doubt, despite eons of evidence, that winter’s grasp on the earth will not this time, be broken.
Deep within April another doorway appears. Stepping through, a closer look reveals a vestibule and rooms beyond, colored with every conceivable tint of green. Stare long enough and isolated clusters of bright colored blossoms and wildflowers appear within the green expanse. Pink and white apple blossoms serve as irrefutable evidence the profusion of life may proceed unimpeded.
As we step though late April’s green garden gate, its reflective surface allows a momentary rearward glance of winter finally and completely consumed in a distant vanishing point.
A collective sigh of relief is expressed as the promise of spring is delivered.
In the same way pens are handed out when ground breaking documents are signed, the profusion of wildflowers that appear are the reproducing instruments nature provides as mementoes of spring’s return.
Spring beauties, trout lilies and native columbine are the visualization of invisible changes taking place triggered by increasing daylength. They are bookmarks and gauges that map the path of the season.
Diminutive spring beauties decorate the meadows and open woodlands, their five white petals marked with delicate pink pinstripes. Growing in scattered patches among the short meadow grass, their presence, when discovered is like finding a lost coin. It is not the equivalent of finding a fortune in gold, but as with a found silver coin, it adds enrichment, satisfaction and a smile. A moment of escape from your incessant busy thoughts is a spring beauty’s most powerful affect. Consider that respite from consciousness an inherent medicinal property.
Trout lilies are appropriately named as their appearance coincides with the opening of trout season. Also called dogtooth lilies, they are found in moist areas along streams and rivers. Trout lilies are short plants with thick green, mottled brown leaves at the base. Each plant features a single bronze colored stalk bearing a lone yellow flower. The yellow flower hangs upside down to reveal a bronze underside. I notice these plants in the more pristine areas and link them to my memories of early trout seasons past.
Native columbine grows on the face of the red shale cliffs that line the river. A beautiful red flower, shaped like a crown, which like the trout lily, hangs upside down. I wonder at the age of some of these plants that grow out of creases in the cliffs. How many springs have they ushered in, how do they survive in such a specific environment, how did they seed themselves in such a precarious place? The bloom is short lived and occurs at a time when hardly anyone passes by, so these plants are rarely noticed. The momentary appearance of this delicate beauty in such an unexpected place enhances their magical qualities. Surely these flowers would be welcome in anyone’s version of a secret garden. The brief appearance of ephemeral spring wildflowers, make them especially precious. Swaying in the cool spring breeze, these native flowers are the starting flags waved to initiate a race. And so begins the cascade of life renewed, as it ebbs and flows through the entire living community found behind the green door of April.
Author Joe Mish has been running wild in New Jersey since childhood when he found ways to escape his mother’s watchful eyes. He continues to trek the swamps, rivers and thickets seeking to share, with the residents and visitors, all of the state’s natural beauty hidden within full view. To read more of his writing and view more of his gorgeous photographs visit Winter Bear Rising, his wordpress blog. Joe’s series “Nature on the Raritan, Hidden in Plain View” runs monthly as part of the LRWP “Voices of the Watershed” series. Writing and photos used with permission from the author. Contact email@example.com. See more articles and photos at winterbearrising.wordpress.com.