The Star of Spring
What a gift to the world is the Lady Slipper! It is newly unfurled in our woods, springing up amongst its neighbors, the Canada Mayflower, the Starflower, the fern, and the low-bush blueberries, with their delicate bell-like blossoms. While beauty abounds in its vicinity, what can compare to the outrageous Lady Slipper.
From a set of broad basal leaves, on a hearty green stalk, lolls the pouched blossom that is as erotic as it is beautiful. Officially, the color is described as pink, but the word does not do the thing justice. It is, of course, an orchid, and orchids are known for their extravagance. It is a wild and native orchid- by far the most common on Cape Cod. (There are many more kinds in the steamy tropics.) I have heard that people have tried to transplant it to their gardens with little or no success. There is some mysterious symbiosis, some interplay of soil, fungus, and plant that keeps it wild and on its own. That is just fine with me. My only lament is that with the Lady Slipper comes the first hatch of mosquitos.
What also shows up about this time is a medium-sized bird called the Red-eyed Vireo. It is the avian antithesis of the Lady Slipper, with grayish-greenish muted tones- its red eye is its only attempt at extravagance. It is shy and retiring, preferring to sing from a hidden leafy perch. Its song, too, is simple and unobtrusive- slow, repetitive, sing-songy, monotonous and almost irritating.
Still, it sings, from dawn to dusk- sings its vireo song to an unapprehending world, as it has done for eons. It is not brash but it is insistent, demanding in its quiet way to have its say and to stake its claim to a patch of woodland.
The Red-eyed vireo sings, as the Lady Slipper blossoms, in the face of every calamity imaginable, every catastrophe headed our way. This drab bird, and this bright orchid, represent the constancy of Nature, a constancy we can turn to for hope. June brings the green world into fruition once again, and the animal world follows suit.
And so do we: downtown this morning I saw shopkeepers setting out their wares, young servers in their uniforms headed to work, painters clambering up ladders, carpenters working their tools, traffic officers directing cars, and a small but steady flow of visitors walking down the street. This, too, is a seasonal constant.
We can and should pay attention to the many negative trends in the world, and do what we can to address them, but let’s not fall into despair, let’ s not disregard the hopeful signs that are all around us.