Pink Lady Slippers
Often I hear monks chanting and then realize that I am actually hearing chain saws, dirt bikes, or leaf blowers. It’s easy to pretend otherwise. I close my eyes and see Tibetan monks in saffron robes, walking along the path in the woods, carrying something precious, chanting. It’s misty. The light, blue through the haze. They are welcoming the new season.
It is not, actually, the guy next door riding his dirt bike on the path. He wouldn’t do that, right? I mean, this is a path that no one should ride on. In fact, that people are forbidden to ride on. Except on horse—that is allowed. But otherwise, no. Do not do it. You should not ride. No. There are small creatures—salamanders, toads, frogs—and there are precious plants—ferns and pink lady slippers.
These flowers you might miss in our forest, because they are rare here. But when you see one, you stop. Oh, yes. Okay, that is one. Allen found one quite near the path and set up sticks around it so that no one would damage it, but someone did nonetheless.
Do you know that one of the ways I help myself sleep nowadays is to picture the pink lady slippers? I do. When I wake up at night, as I do, I focus on the pink lady slipper. I start from its leaves and move up. It is glorious.
Do you know how rare they have become around here? I read recently that if you wanted to plant one in your home garden, wanted to buy one from a garden shop, it would cost you something like $90 a plant.
They are precious. Perhaps I am fond of them because they take so long to produce their first flower–almost sixteen years. As a late bloomer, I understand this–holding your most precious gift so close and tender and then waiting for that perfect time to share it with the world. It touches me that they are thus. It touches me. I want them to live on.
They are of the orchid family, you see. And they are the state flower of Minnesota, where many fine people live, including several writer friends of mine.
But here in New Hampshire they live sporadically and, ironically, they live in quiet profusion on my dirt-bike riding neighbor’s property.
He moved in last year and neglected his landscape during the time they were blooming. For this I was grateful. They were not mowed down. But this year, I wake up and wonder what will happen. Will he mow them over, uncaring? I don’t know. Maybe not. Maybe not. Perhaps a tender heart exists–one that cherishes these beauties.
Regardless, I have decided that I will ask my neighbors if I might photograph their precious plants, thereby letting them know what bounty they have. They have sweet children and my hope is to enlist the children as protectors of these plants.
Of course, I may chicken out. I may find myself tongue tied as I so do in case of great, blinding love. But maybe not. I want these flowers to survive. It feels more important to me than ever this year that they do when so much of this world is disappearing. It is one thing to hold onto.