Field Notes: Seeing Green


Spring looks best in the rain. I get obsessive this time of year, wanting to cover all the ground I can, and there’s no finer time than right after a good soaking rain. The green stands out against the dark grays and browns of the tree trunks, almost glowing. The grass is brilliant with a multitude of varying shades of green with blue and yellow undertones. Did you know that the human eye differentiates more shades of green than in any other color? Lately I’ve been tramping around in wetlands looking for the delicacies of spring, ramps and morels, and I love how my eye gets attuned to the differences between say, skunk cabbage and wild hellebore. Skunk cabbage definitely has that almost radioactive chartreuse thing going on, to warn us of its toxicity? Wild hellebore is also toxic though, and its color doesn’t seem as much a warning. Its leaves are like inviting plumage, big feathery leaves rising up out of one another.

Ramps like to grow near moving water, I find—a small stream or brook—close to the skunk cabbage, trout lilies and wild hellebore, but not quite as appreciative of the truly wetter murk. As I search those areas, I keep tabs on the trees that like to be near those wetter areas, like elms and ashes. The more I read the more I feel like the place to look for morels is about the soil and not necessarily the trees. That doesn’t mean I’m finding any more of them, though. I think looking for them is a little crazy-making, and I’m usually glad to give up the search when the time is over.

In the meantime, I try not to obsess too much, and instead enjoy the rambles I am on. Keeping my eyes out for any new growth, like the mullein and its soft fuzzy leaves, or a large wood frog stone still on a rock. Mostly my eyes are trained on the ground, but I try to remember to look up, perhaps I’ll notice the flowering of a tree that might hold the promise of fruit later in the summer. It’s sort of just like life: try not to obsess on the goal, enjoy the journey, don’t forget to look around. Isn’t that what everyone tells you? It’s reliably easier said than done.


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