This time of year, the natural beauty in our part of Oregon is in the textures of branches and barks, and the patchworks of greens showing through yellows and browns of fallen leaves. It’s in mists that rise and fogs that settle. It’s in sun that glows, white not yellow.
And nothing botanical is gloriously or actively showy as the temperatures drop; glory and show take energy. Chemical reactions are slower so metabolism slows. There’s less growth (although it continues in the roots until the cold penetrates) and there’s less activity by pollinators and dispersers. Not surprisingly, only ten of the 300 plant species at Summer Creek had their first bloom of the year after August 1, and the final first bloom was a month ago.
I took a walk. Vegetation that prevented my passage a month ago had dropped its bravado. Grasses slumped, brambles sagged, and shrubs were bare.
I realize it’s fall, and I’ve dropped my bravado, too. Like the plants, I secure my resources. I hold back my flashy energy. I census my world.
Unlike plants, for what I have, and for what I can feel and share, I give thanks.
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While thus walking, I was astonished. There by the side of a path was a new bloom, an ivy-leaved cyclamen (Cyclamen hederifolium). The bloom was a triple surprise.
First, it was blooming in late November, second we’ve never seen it bloom before, and third, it hadn’t bloomed where I expected it.
For seven years, I’ve tiptoed around an abandoned homesite up the valley, searching for blossoms, in all months of the year. Old tress there make deep shade. Cyclamen and sorrel (Oxalis oreganum) carpet the ground, the deep green waxy leaves, with white patches (the cyclamen) amid the soft leaflets, heartshaped and on cocktail-umbrella stalks (the sorrel).
Instead, it bloomed a hundred feet from the homesite, on one plant. And the blossoms were glorious and showy. When I then checked the homesite, the carpet was only green, save one small flower well off to the side; I doubt I would have seen it in a normal inspection.
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I’ve since learned that ivy-leaved cyclamen is planted widely because it’s hardy to low temperatures and because it blooms in the fall. I’ve also learned that the location a hundred feet from the homesite is a warning that whereas it may have “naturalized” where it was once planted, it may be an escapee, an invader, elsewhere. I’ll watch it, and deal with it if it spreads. So it’s not a wonder that it was planted, that it blooms so late, that it thrives after abandonment, or even that it grows at a distance from the homesite.
The wonder is that I came upon it unexpectedly–that it was it unbidden, unexpected, and unsought. It then jostled my generalizations about the world.
I’ve dropped my bravado; it’s fall. I secure my resources. I hold back my flashy energy. I census my world. My world surprises, astounds. For what I have, for what I can feel, and for what I can still learn, I give thanks.