Showy Orchids in the Woods

Showy orchid - cropI have started to come to the woods in the morning again. It’s been a long time since I wandered down that worn path to the stream where I sit and soak in the sounds, the smells, the sensations of the woods. It feels good to be back in the out-of-doors in the spring. The air is finally warm, and so sweet I can taste it. A wood thrush sings from a branch nearby. The sound of the stream is like music too. This is my happy place.

Spring has been a long time in coming this year. It snowed in mid-April—eight inches!—and the temperature hasn’t gotten much above 50 degrees. As I cleared the winter detritus from the path on my way down to the stream, I scanned the ground for signs of spring wildflowers, though I didn’t expect any; it feels too early, too cold, not quite spring enough for spring wildflowers.

So I was shocked when I rounded the bend in the trail and, right there next to the path, there was a clump of oval basal leaves and a stalk with lavender and white flowers. A showy orchid!! It’s the thing I long to see every spring, this rare, beautiful vision. It made me ridiculously happy!

This flower is endangered, which makes me feel very lucky that there are at least a few specimens in my woods. In an environment that is threatened by climate change and invasive species and other destructive human interference, even this one, lone plant—the only flowering orchid I could find—gives me hope.

So imagine my horror when, three days later, I returned to the woods and found that this thing that brought such joy, this one remaining orchid in my woods, was gone, eaten by a deer! That herd of white tails that roam this housing development, eating away all of the azalea blooms in my garden, the English ivy and hostas and daylilies and impatiens and coleus and even the mint in a pot on my back patio last summer, these voracious herbivores are my nemesis. And now they have taken that one ecstatic blossom, that one hopeful sign that Mother Nature is still holding on. I was devastated beyond words.

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