We were walking in the woods, reveling in the huge shaggy moss-draped Big-leaf maples, the burst of fresh green leaves on the Salal lighting up the undergrowth, and the majesty of the Doug-firs, as we explored up and down the trails and poked into corners new or half-remembered from other walks. The high chatter of birds only accentuated the quiet we craved. Only a few people were out walking dogs or strolling as were we. One, a woman with two golden retrievers, stopped to chat. She asked if we had found any lilies in bloom. No, we had not. Yet. Her question became a quest, a focus for our attention.
As I searched the margins of the path, I also tried to search the disorganized file-box of my memory: when had I seen them last year? I remembered the delight of finding the bright orange splash of color, the elegant curved-back petals with the extravagant stamens, the tall slender stalks with flower after flower reaching for the dappled sunlight. I remembered the setting, how they grew near openings in the forest, how the wandering paths were opportune spots for their growth and just as opportune for us seeking to view their splendor. But what time of year was it that had we had discovered their presence?
Not for the first time I resolved to keep a nature journal, a record of just this kind of information. Margaret would have known the annual date of blooming from all her years of wild flower gardening and close observation of natural cycles. She could step out of her door and note the arrival of a migrating bird, then its nesting and eventual fledging of the new offspring. The flowering and fruiting of native plants, the seasonal round of growth, would play out just steps from her home. She would have been aware how everything worked together—the insect bloom to feed the young birds as they hatched, the new growth arriving just when deer and other grazers need it most, the spring rains freshening and supporting the new life, the longer days of sunlight powering the entire cycle—making the wheel of life turn.
Keeping a notebook of natural occurrences would also prime us for these moments of wonder and joy. We eventually did find some lilies; first one bravura burst of orange, and then another, and another, until we were seeing them everywhere we looked. Our day was transformed by the beauty and surprise of the lilies. We were lucky to be in the right place at the right time. Memory stirred and I recalled that I had seen the lilies last year about this time—the week of my birthday. Surely I could remember that wondrous gift.