My grandmother delighted in the woods. From a young age she led my brothers and I in through the underbrush, searching. Nature was a treasure chest waiting to be discovered and she was Indiana Jones leading the adventurers into the cavern full of gold.
These were not well-groomed urban parks with asphalt trails meandering through a grove of trees, edged by grass, keeping walkers out of the mud. She took us into a dense cropping of oaks and maples and elms. All of them shooting up wildly, looking for the light. Large trunks lay where they fell after a significant windstorm, embarrassed by their exposed roots toppled to one side. A thick cover of faded dull leaves lay thick across the forest floor.
I can still see her in her cotton white shirt embroidered at the neckline, mint green Bermuda shorts and practical tan shoes. She would reach down, gather us around, and gently push the undergrowth to the side. With the delicacy of a hand model, she would pull back the cover on an earthy Jack-in-the-Pulpit or an elegant Lady Slipper.
She delighted in her success at finding us these special flora amongst all the mundane. For the rest of the outing we’d hear on repeat, “Weren’t we so lucky to find the red trillium, weren’t we? ” White trillium carpets the woods in the early spring before the leaves emerge, but we found ourselves nodding in agreement at the fortitude at coming across the red variety. How could you not get caught up in her enthusiasm?
As we got older my brothers lost interest in her guided tours or took up spending hours on my grandfather’s aluminum fishing boat. But I continued to tag along. She’d hear from someone in town where blueberry bushes had been spotted in some wayside ditch on a remote up-north road. With couple of empty plastic ice cream buckets in the back of her red VW bug, off we’d go to find what the woods had to offer us.
“Look,” she would say. Look at the bloom, the owl, the stream, the berries, the poison Ivy! Look. If I have any skills in observing nature, it is thanks to my Oma.