Friday, May 3, 2013
I went up to my cabin for the day yesterday. The weather was gorgeous and it seemed like a good day for a walk in the woods.
One of my favorite things about spring in the Pacific Northwest is the trillium. The blossoms dot the forest floor. When they open, the flowers are brilliant white. Then, as they mature and wilt, they gradually turn from white to lavender to deep purple.
Even though they are hardy enough to continue blooming during late snows, the plants are fragile if disturbed. If you pick the flower, the plant can take years to recover before blooming again. They are meant to be savored in place.
To me, the flowers are beautiful teachers. Here are some of their quiet lessons.
Be present. You can’t take the flowers with you, so enjoy them in the moment.
Non-attachment. Trying to grasp their beauty by picking the flowers destroys them.
Generosity. The flowers grace the forest with loveliness, freely and generously for all to see.
Gratitude. Seeing the trillium every spring fills me with gratitude for the bounty of nature’s gifts.
Delight. Walking becomes a treasure hunt for beauty, watching for the white blossoms and thrilling at each discovery.
The flowers even helped me be a better teacher! The law school where I taught is nestled in the forest on the edge of a state park. You can walk right out of the school and into the woods, along miles of trails. The lush setting of the school draws students from all over the world.
Early spring is a tough time for first year law students. They have gotten their grades from first semester, and since 90% of them are not in the top 10% of the class, there is some inevitable let down. They are also gearing up for the stressful scramble for their first summer jobs as law clerks.
One sunny spring day, I paused before starting class. The tension in the room was palpable. The normal pre-class banter was absent. The students’ faces were grim. Instead of launching into the planned discussion on anticipatory repudiation, I closed my book and instructed the students to follow me.
We went to my office where they could leave their belongings secured, and we went on a trillium hunt in the park. I figured since many of them had come to this school for the environmental law program, they should at least get out now and then to enjoy the environment! When those students graduated a few years later, they told me that one of their most memorable moments in law school was the shock of having a professor tell them to have some fun. It’s one of my fondest memories, too.
Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts. ~Rachel Carson
related posts: Fun Is Good; Breezes at Dawn