Small Things

photo. @madsnature_

To see a World in a Grain of Sand

And a Heaven in a Wild Flower

Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand

And Eternity in an hour

Auguries of Innocence—William Blake

Although it really is hard to choose, I think spring is my favorite season.  April is my birth month and I associate new life with the next year of my life.  I love Easter and Easter candy and everything about this celebration of new and everlasting life. Spring is not a grand season like the heat of summer, the intense joy of Christmas or the flaming colors of autumn. Spring is a celebration of the small and the subtle, tiny wildflowers, light breezes, little blue bird’s eggs, and soft new grass underfoot.

At the beginning of March, the first wildflowers make an appearance here on our farm in Tennessee.  The very first flowers are Harbingers of Spring, tiny pink flowers on delicate stems. It is still chilly in March and we will probably have one more snow and a few cold snaps but the promise that winter won’t last much longer warms my heart. The next flowers to emerge in the forest are the sweet white Anemones.  They are larger with pointed petals and cover the forest floor as a backdrop to the showier flowers to come.  

We have a special place in our woods down near the fair-weather creek that we call “the pretty bottoms”.  According to the dictionary, bottomland is low-lying land along a watercourse and is usually protected by hills on all sides and has rich topsoil.  It is on this land that the wildflowers really thrive. During the early spring, I take a daily pilgrimage to take in the sight and breath in the smell of delicate flowers and warming earth.  The crunch underfoot of fallen leaves gives way to the delicate green of the forest floor.  Two years ago, we built a footbridge to make the creek easier to cross and this year we added a picnic table by the creek to have a place to display collections of bark, moss and flowers.  But usually, I just sit there happy to be in my little paradise.  Deeper in the woods we have a hammock for forest bathing—the Japanese form of forest therapy.  I’m never happier than when I’m just gently swinging in that hammock with the warm breeze on my face and my eyes closed in reverie.

This year we were treated to a bumper crop of thousands of yellow Trout Lilies. The name comes from their mottled leaves that look like the mottled bodies of brook trout.  They are shy flowers that live in colonies and stick together in a large carpet of small green leaves that are close to the ground. These colonies spread slowly and we estimate our acres of lily colony to be over 100 years old.  Their heads are bowed and only display their full glory when the sun shines.  But I make sure that I enjoy their beautiful delicate faces as I tilt the petals up to get a closer look.

There are yellow Trillium, May Apples, Twin Leaf and droopy Bellwort, but they all are the beautiful backdrop to my favorite Purple Phlox. This is what I’ve waited for all winter—the purple phlox.  As I arrive at the Pretty Bottoms, I’m greeted by their delicate smell and showy purple flowers.  They don’t need sunshine to open, they are just happy all the time and in turn make my heart sing with absolute joy.  I can’t wait to share these beauties with anyone I can convince to hike up the hill that then leads to the long winding hill down to the flowers.   But I do love it best when I have the flowers, birds and trees to myself in my own private paradise.  I often think of all the years these flowers bloomed without my knowing.  Now every time I see them, I let them know how happy I am they waited for me.

photo @madsnature_

I’ve gone on and on without mentioning the exciting new small thing that has arrived on the farm—honeybees.  Now I have thousands of tiny flying friends to also enjoy the spring display.  I had been thinking about getting bees for a couple of years and was going to start a hive this spring when my obsession with Facebook Marketplace finally paid off.   Joseph had placed a listing looking for land for his hives in exchange for honey.  I couldn’t message him fast enough!  A few weeks ago, he brought out 16 hives on four pallets—all the fun of bees and none of the work for me.  Toward the end of the trail around the farm I get to see those bees swarming, busy doing their important bee jobs. Biscuits and cornbread will soon be the preferred method for honey consumption.

I hope my enthusiasm for small things inspires you to go notice the little things in your world. It is easy to notice the big and boisterous and overlook the delicate, fragile and quiet but that would be missing the corners of our heart and mind waiting to be filled with beauty to soften the hard edges of life.  

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