Exploring a new place

I’ve never been good at identifying plants. I know the names of some trees and how to identify them. It was pretty easy when we lived in the Black Hills, where Ponderosa Pine, Black Hills Spruce, Juniper, Oak and Cottonwood trees make up the bulk of the trees. Now that we have moved to northwestern Washington, things are different. There are a lot of new species of trees. We checked out a book on identifying trees in the region from the library, but there is a lot more that we need to learn before we would be considered to be knowledgable about local trees. A similar phenomena is true of flowers. There are a lot of flowers around here and the blooming season is just beginning. We know crocus and daffodil and tulip, but there are a lot more bulb, rhizome and tuber flowers springing up.

Yesterday we took a walk on a familiar path close to our house. Part of the path wanders trough a wetland, but the walking surface is raised so that we can walk on a dry path while looking at water running next to the path. As we walked along we noticed brilliant yellow blossoms that we had not before seen. It was just one more sign that spring is occurring all around us.

The flowers reminded us of the Calla Lilies that are popular for bridal bouquets. Of course the preferred flowers for brides are white and these were yellow, but we figured that they might be a variation on that plant. I don’t know if I have ever seen calla lilies growing. The place where we saw these isn’t anyone’s garden and I suspect that the plants have self propagated rather than been planted. I don’t think Calla Lilies are indigenous to this region. I associate them with South Africa, but I know that they are grown on this continent for the commercial flower market.

There is a story about Calla Lilies in Greek mythology. Zeus brought Hercules to nurse from his wife Hera while she was sleeping. As she awoke, she pushed the baby away from her and drops of milk flew across the sky, creating the milky way. Where the milk dropped on the land, calla lilies bloomed. The Romans picked up on the Greek story and had their own story about the lilies in their mythology. In Roman mythology Venus śaw the flower and was jealous of its beauty so she cursed it with an unsightly pistil.

I’m no expert on mythology, either. And I don’t know if the flowers we saw were calla lilies anyway.

Calla lilies are not to be confused with Cow Lilies. Cow lilies grow in deep water with long stems and lily pads that float on the surface of the water. These plants were growing directly from the soil in damp places, but not completely underwater.

Calla lilies are poisonous. I don’t know about Cow lilies.

If you were expecting expertise from today’s journal post, I’m sorry. I don’t seem to have much today.

What I do have is wonder and joy at the world around us.

Last night I ran a quick errand and as I was walking up to our house, I paused for a moment. I could hear a chorus of frogs singing in the night. It was a sound that is familiar, but I don’t remember hearing it at this house before. A short distance from our house there is a large lot that is maintained as a stormwater holding area. The lot has a basin in its center dug out and a surface drain that connects to the city stormwater system. There are beautiful willow trees growing on the lot and it is surrounded by blooming crab apple trees. It is a nice addition to the neighborhood. I’m pretty sure that the frog song was coming from that lot. It had been a lovely day with high temperatures in the 60’s and it was likely the warm temperature that coaxed the frogs up from their winter hiding places in the soft mud of the bottom of the stormwater basin.

Seeing the lilies and listening to the frogs made me miss our youngest grandson. After staying with us for a month, he and his mother have gone on to their new home in South Carolina. He was delighted with the reunion with his father and his dog and I’m glad that their family is together again, but he was a joy to have around and I miss him. If he had been here, I would have enjoyed showing him the flowers and having him listen to the frogs. He would have been excited to note that the bunny we occasionally saw in our yard when he visited is now a regular and that there are two, not one bunnies. That bodes well for more bunnies to come, but that is a story that he can learn when he gets a bit older.

I’m a bit like a little kid these days, exploring the new place where I live. There are a lot of sights and sounds that are different from our Dakota home. We didn’t have any frogs at our house. They want a bit more water than the forest offered on the hilltop where we lived. And although we had crows, we didn’t have the big murders of crows that frequent our neighborhood here. We had Canadian geese, but we didn’t see trumpeter swans. And the occasional seagull lacked the number of companions that seagulls find here on the coast. There is much to see and learn in this new place, and we have the luxury of being retired and having a bit more time to explore.

My prayer of gratitude this morning includes appreciation for the rich diversity of the natural world with new plants and animals to discover at every turn. I miss the deer and turkeys that were our neighbors in South Dakota, but I’m meeting new animal and bird neighbors every day out here.

And, lucky me, I got to live in both places and learned to love both kinds of space.

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