Posted by: Memorizing Nature | April 22, 2012

An Entrance Demure

I walk in noise. A cold spring rain wallops the rock. Frogs shrill for a mate, and finches warble. Branches break under my feet, as I pick my way over last year’s discarded oak leaves, searching for trilliums. The flowers are scheduled to bloom right about now, after the snow has melted but before the earth goes green. It’s a dull period when most plants don’t feel like getting out of bed. April is a cautious time; the weather can’t be trusted – it warms and then cools again. So we wait. So life waits.

Are the trilliums out yet? I doubt it. Shy ferns unfurl among broken acorns. Moss stirs into wakefulness. There’s a beer-bottle cap here, and a dog’s old tennis ball there, but no trilliums. Maybe they won’t come out this year, but that’s what we always say. Their habit is to emerge wordlessly and vanish shortly afterward. By definition, they are ephemeral, rushing through their life cycle before the trees grow leaves and block the sun. Trilliums enjoy an existence without much competition. In a way, it’s lonely for them, but then again, they’re the best beauties out there. Timing is everything.

I climb down the south-facing rock face, hanging on to a layer of lichen. It must be too early for trilliums. We really should start a calendar and jot down when different plants emerge; then we’ll know exactly when to look. My plan is to admire, not to disturb. The trillium is a flower so sacred and vulnerable no one dares pick one, although the rules about protecting them aren’t well understood. “You can’t take a trillium,” folks say. “It’s against the law, I think. Somewhere, it’s against the law.”

Photo by E. Medline

Okay, there’s one, and hold on, there’s another. A few have gathered in a cluster. Some have already flowered, while others are getting ready. Each plant has three leaves, three sepals and three petals, designed in symmetrical harmony, as if by an artist who has discovered how to surpass prettiness. Suddenly, all sounds cease. The rain stops. The frogs hush because they have found their mates, and the finches rest in their nests, turning yellow. Now is the trilliums’ turn. I approach closer, and these small marvels, they nod modestly, seeming to appreciate their value on this land.

Photo by E. Medline



  1. I love trilliums. They truly are one of the most early of early flowers. Around here they are a dark burgundy red. I have some in my shade garden under the spirea bushes, I have to seek them out because they are not out on full view.

    This post makes me feel the spring, hear the woods the way they are. Thank you.

  2. When I was young we visited our friends in the country every spring. I can still remember the field of white trilliums under the towering trees marching down the hill towards the brook. It was quite a sight.

  3. As a child I remember being taught about the sacredness of trilliums as well. They are certainly the harbingers of spring in the woods. Love the way you have captured the sounds of the springtime woods.

  4. I always breathe more deeply and easily after reading your blog and taking in nature through your eyes. Thank you!

  5. I love your writing, there is a peaceful strenght to it.

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