Lady Slipper Spring

It’s been a really special spring when it comes to Lady Slipper sightings in the woods. Yes, it’s been special in other ways, too, but I’m trying to stay focused here.

Lady Slipper

As you can see from the photo, they can be a bit of a challenge to spot.

This particular one is in the place where I’ve seen Lady Slippers before. The leaves always come up in the spring, but there isn’t a bloom every year.

Starting in April, as the woods gradually green up, I begin to check that spot, hoping to see the pink, bulbous flower — such an amazing surprise when it appears?

Many years I see only the leaves – and sometimes a thin stalk but no flower.

This year I got lucky! Not only did this one appear, but as May turned into June, we saw two more of these lovely flowers in our woods.

And here’s what I didn’t know about the Lady Slipper:

  • It’s actually an orchid,
  • And, at that, it’s the only orchid that’s native to North America.
  • Some articles cite it as quite rare,
  • While this piece from NHPR says, ‘not so much.’

What everyone seems to agree about is that these plants require some fairly special circumstances to bloom, and so, I feel very honored when I come upon one. (And honestly, the idea of an orchid of any sort growing wild kinda blows me away…)

And since you asked, here’s what I’ve learned about myself and life, as I’ve thought about Lady Slippers this spring:

  • I’ve frequently caught myself thinking that these 3 Lady Slipper sightings represent their entire population in the woods. This pulls me up short, as I remember that I am only seeing the ones that are adjacent to my path. There is more unknown than known, even about the most familiar places. And my path, as much as I love it, is a narrow one. It feels important to remember that, but I often don’t. Ego-centricity seems to be a natural reflex.
  • When I have walked, these recent weeks, I have also caught myself scanning the nearby terrain for Lady Slippers. Here, I note that:
    • Scanning my surroundings means that I miss things right in my path. If I’m not careful, as I look around, I run the risk of tripping on a rock or root and taking a tumble. Surely there’s a life lesson in this!
    • Looking for one thing means I may miss something else. Am I so focused on the next Lady Slipper that I miss the Scarlet Tanager in the trees?
    • And have I just become acquisitive when it comes to Lady Slippers? Am I not fully appreciating the ones I’ve seen if I keep looking for others? It feels a little ‘Ugly American’ somehow, to keep wanting more…

They’re fading now, our Lady Slippers. As I walk, I pay my respects to each one, glad to see them and knowing that they will be gone soon enough.

I’ve appreciated their companionship, these recent weeks, and will miss them when they’re gone…

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