Spring ephemerals

     This is just a write of glory.
     I am jittering with anticipation. The migrating warblers are at our doorstep, and each day holds the possibility of new arrivals. This morning, Bob reported the first “zee zee zee zoh zee” of a Black-throated green. On a noon walk, I saw a Yellow-rump (add “Warbler” to the end of these colorful names.) And the best part is, there will be more tomorrow.

     Already there are wildflowers in bloom. The yellow coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara) that closely resembles the common dandelion is blooming on roadsides. In the grasses at the edges of lawns and meadows are the tiny four-petaled bluets (Houstonia caerulea). Trailing arbutus (Epigaea repens) is blooming under its leathery leaves close to the ground. But my favorite is the wood anemone (Anemone quinquefolia), the white, five-petaled spring ephemeral that floats above the dead leaves in the early spring woods.
Wood anemone
     I love the woodland spring ephemerals. They are demure, generally white, and delicate. In my woods, I see wood anemone, dwarf ginseng (Panax trifolius), Canada mayflower (Maianthemum canadense), starflower (Trientalis borealis). In other places with richer soils, I might also see spring beauty (Claytonia virginica), dutchman's-breeches (Dicentra cucullaria) or cut-leaved toothwort (Dentaria laciniata). Just the names themselves are delicious.
     Spring ephemerals are kind of like the warblers of the plant world: they come early, are small, and somewhat fleeting; that's what is so enticing about them. There are bigger, showier flowers, like red trillium (Trillium erectum) or pink lady's slipper (Cypripedium acaule), and these to me are the Baltimore Orioles and Scarlet Tanagers of the forest floor. They are breathtaking, a discovery when sighted, worth telling a friend about. They are jewels to be sure.
     But I have a soft spot when it comes to the little guys, partly because they are easy to overlook. But do look closely; learn their names; come to understand their daring to be among the first, to arrive in the moment that spring hesitates. And when it's over, the spring ephemerals will melt back into the earth and the warblers will become silent and invisible, and the season of robust leaves and summer heat will be upon us.
      So here we are now, on the brink of an exuberant but fleeting beauty. My heart is ready, savoring anticipation itself. My pledge is to walk into that beauty every chance I get, not dismiss its importance for the email inbox or the laundry or the meetings that clamor for my attention. Paying attention to beauty is valid – is necessary – because it is fleeting. It is the perfect nectar for our winter weary souls.