A Spring Birthday

Margaret once described the progression of the seasons this way: “the quiet anticipation of winter, the joyous activity of spring, the restful fulfillment of summer, and the hopeful acceptance of autumn.” We can share with Margaret some of what brought her joy in the weeks leading up to her birthday and celebrate her special day, April 17, and then carry on, season after season, anticipating and noticing all that Nature brings. To begin, if you happen to awaken in the early hours, before the sky lightens, open a window and listen for the dawn chorus of birds. That urgent calling out of bird to bird will set you up for coursing of energy that rushes through all beings in this season of bursting of new life.

A few weeks before her birthday, Margaret would have looked for her favorite flower, the trillium, appearing in clumps in the dappled shade of mixed forests. Its clear-white three-petal flower rises on a stalk above bright green heart shaped leaves that grow in whorls of three, a flag announcing that spring has truly arrived. It’s not the earliest flower—skunk cabbage heralds the season in its own vibrant way, Indian plum puts forth its small flowers and other bushes and vines unfurl their bright pink—but finding trilliums in bloom puts a stamp on spring, a feeling of relief. “We made it!” Trilliums are rare so seeing them reappear we can exhale and renew our sense that however precarious, wonders do still happen.


To celebrate Margaret—and follow in her footsteps—I went for a walk with dear friends who are familiar with her storied life and who also revel in finding spring flowers and noting all the new growth and the appearance of old favorites. We went to a local park that follows the steeply descending course of the Deschutes River through a series of falls as it rushes toward Budd Inlet and Puget Sound. The park has been closed for months to refurbish its trails and add new features so it was with great anticipation and a sense of discovery that we took to the path that threaded the high banks of the river. The froth and surge of water, the glint of the sun and sparkle of scattered drops as water met rocky outcroppings added to the festivity of our outing.

The Deschutes froths over the rocks sending spray into the trees and freshening the moss and ferns that green its banks
Where the river relaxes into slower moving pools that become Capitol Lake

We were richly rewarded!

We could see these lilies growing on the bank a ways below where we stood on the path. My friends thought they were probably white fawn lilies, but we could not get close enough to see them in detail to be certain. Just glad to see them!
Look closely and you’ll see a native Pacific Bleeding Heart, less showy than the cultivated ones from a garden center but delicate and sweet
False Solomon’s Seal
Perhaps a native crab apple? Again, we saw it from a distance down the bank and could not be certain
I don’t remember! But I’ll be searching through my guide, The Plants of the Pacific Northwest by the go-to authorities, Pojar and MacKinnon! So much to learn!
Everybody was out enjoying the beautiful spring day!

At the end of our excursion we found a spot and set up our chairs—still socially distant but close enough for real conversation without the aid of technology—and enjoyed sharing our reflections with some cake with a salute to Margaret. We calculated that it has been 136 years since her birth in the old house that overlooked that same river around a few bends from where we sat. So much has changed—the house is long gone and the river itself has been impounded behind a dam to create Capitol Lake—and yet so much remains. The same spring flowers still bloom and delight. Her story still resonates and her teachings still matter: Don’t pick the trilliums! Let them flower and fade back into the earth so they can gather strength to return again, spring eternal.

11 thoughts on “A Spring Birthday

  1. …“the quiet anticipation of winter, the joyous activity of spring, the restful fulfillment of summer, and the hopeful acceptance of autumn.” I love that! Hopeful, positive and grateful all year round.
    I have only ever seen trilliums in the wild once and it was a thrill. In the Canadian Rockies somewhere I believe. Even in my early adulthood I knew seeing this plant was unusual and special.
    I will raise a glass to Margaret this evening in celebration of her birthday, life and legacy.
    To Margaret!


    1. The trilliums are almost finished for this year but you can still find them. As they wind down they turn a beautiful pinkish color….don’t know why but it is quite striking. Are there any woods near you that have some patches of sunlight and shade and aren’t too overrun? You might find some! I wonder if there is a “hotline” for plants like the ones for seeing birds?


  2. I absolutely loved this post. Thank you so much for reminding us about the ephemeral heralds of Spring in our beautiful Olympia. What a lovely way to celebrate Margaret McKinney’s birthday!


  3. Really enjoyed your trek into the woods. Flowers are delighting me every day as they pop out – except of course for the dandelions which require daily attention.


  4. I pull dandelions too but I am ambivalent about doing so. This is a little woo-woo but sometimes I think we should rest our war against all the species we don’t like just in case they may be the survivors we’ll need if climate change etc. progresses beyond the imaginable. What a thought! But it’s there….


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