Spring Ephemerals

Spring ephemeral, refers to perennial plants that emerge quickly in the spring and die back to their underground parts after a short growth and reproduction phase.

Spring is slowly returning to the northern Midwest. Yesterday we had a sunny, windless day with temps reaching into the mid-50s. While those who live in warmer climes scoff at our weather, days like the precious one we had yesterday are cherished. We go through months of dark, cold days, enduring snow and ice, eagerly awaiting the first signs of spring.

Here in my part of Wisconsin, we still have another month of cold weather to endure. April is no prize to those of us who live near Lake Michigan, whose water temperatures remain in the high 30s this time of year. We won’t get real warmth until June around here. In my adopted home town of Port Washington, we assert that we don’t get spring at all. It’s a cruel joke. Go just a few miles inland, and the tulips bloom and the lawns green up while ours stubbornly wear their winter brown.

Taking advantage of yesterday’s opportunity to get outdoors, I headed for a local natural area to go for a walk in the woods. I’ve enjoyed hiking for decades, but this walk took on special meaning for me. It was my first hike since I severely injured my left leg in a fall on February 27, 2016. When I hit the ground, I tore the quadriceps tendon completely off my left kneecap. That tendon is what holds your leg together. Shortly thereafter, my leg was surgically repaired and remained in a full-length metal leg brace for seven weeks. Nineteen rehab sessions later, I was able to take my tentative first steps without the brace. And yet, a year later, my leg has strengthened to the point that yesterday I found myself hiking in the woods again.

I took a camera, kneeling pad, and walking stick with me into the woods. I had to get down on my knees to photograph the flowers, and needed the hiking stick to push myself back up. Yet I was able to do it! This was no small triumph for me. I thankfully celebrate my recovery and ability to again enjoy one of my lifelong passions.

I’ve loved photographing spring wildflowers for many years. In fact, I share my work online in a Facebook album and the Wonderful Wildflowers gallery on my photo web site. Besides their inherent beauty, these unique creations are harbingers of the coming warmer months. We have short summers in Wisconsin, and we treasure them. The bookends of spring and fall herald their coming and going. A sure sign of the approaching summer is the abundant crop of native wildflowers, and I often head to local woodlots, and sometimes more distant destinations, to photograph them.

Besides the healing of my leg, which enabled me to hike in the woods again, this is also the season of Lent for Christians. Easter, when we celebrate the Resurrection of the crucified Christ, is not far off. These little wildflowers also signify resurrection to me. New life arising from death. The promise of vitality amidst the evidence of morbidity.

Just a simple cluster of flowers? Nope. I see them as evidence of the love and faithfulness of God, coming through yet again. Providing us evidence that there is hope in the midst of the detritus of the passing seasons of loss.