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Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Intermittent sunshine has given me a chance to watch plants change as each welcomes spring in its own way. The cones of our native tulip poplar glow irridescently like cotton balls attached to the tips of every branch. 
The tulip poplar (liriodendron tulipifera) is not really a poplar at all, but is part of the magnolia family. My mother used to tell me that it was called a poplar because you could place a leaf (also tulip shaped) over the hole of an open fist then with your other hand tightly cupped, quickly slap the leaf and "POP!" as the leaf exploded in its middle. I still do this every few years just to be sure it still works.  Soon each tree will have creamy yellow tulip-like flowers which will form the cones full of seeds.  Once the seeds blow away or are eaten throughout the winter, the cones remain.  I think they remain just to make use of a perfect sunny day to showcase their beauty, a reward for the lucky viewer who makes a practice of looking up.

Due to consistent cold this past February, the forsythia bushes that line our driveway have had a rare winter without sneaking any blooms out.  I expect them to be especially full this year. As soon as the blooms are finished, I promise to prune off the old growth this year.  Really, I promise. I mean it, I will really do it this year.
These buds, like stunted green fingers reach for the sun to quickly open
Within my garden, color is starting to take over.  From the raspberry-red of heuchera or coral bells,
to the delicate flower of vinca minor or lessor periwinkle with its (what else?!?) periwinkle blue blossoms peeking out from under the leaf litter.
This particular periwinkle came from the same old home site that gave me many of my daffodils, a home that was abandoned over a hundred years ago. To be walking through the woods, with no remaining road in sight and then come upon a spot about fifty feet around covered with these tiny blue flowers from which sprout hundreds of yellow daffodil blooms is an experience I will never forget. 
The first time for me was like being part of a Disney movie.  I half-expected bluebirds to land on my shoulder and braid my hair.  The site belongs to a friend, but is part of my soul; to me holy, set apart from everything else, a bit of eternity planted by a woman building a life with her family in the wilds of West Virginia.
I see her bending over, planting each bulb, and each stringy clump of vinca hoping to add some civilized beauty to her hilltop home. She never could have realized the joy she would bring to this future woman who remembers her with reverence every spring.  Recently, the place has been timbered and is covered with  bulldozer tracks and fallen branches. A good stand of timber is like money in the bank.  I understand the owner using his trees to make his retirement nicer. But still . . . I haven't gone back for several years.  The last time I did, I sat down and wept feeling as if a temple had been ransacked.  Even now I can barely see my computer screen through tears of sadness mixed with joy of rememberance. I will go back though.  Things change, and the forest can heal itself over time.  I expect that as it does heal, the bright yellow jonquils will still push through the shiny green leaves of a periwinkle carpet to join the petite blue flowers, proof that she lived - this woman who subtly changed my life and brought beauty to the woods.

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