The salmonberries are already blooming in Portland’s Forest Park.  I wonder whether they’re blooming in the coast range, and near Opal Creek, and in the nooks and crevices of our urban parks and green spaces.  Their deep pink petals hang lightly in defiance of the torrential rains we’ve been seeing the past few days.  “Yes,” they are declaring.  “Yes, we will create and thrive amidst the chill.”  Somehow, the rain supports them.  The pollen clings to the anthers underneath that halo of pink, a bit safer from being washed away that the elder flowers’, whose tiny flowers cling together in clumps that seem to melt and mash together in the soggy air.  I can’t hide my excitement as I tramp up, up, up the switchbacks and wind my way out and around every ravine and creekside slope of exuberant green mosses.  Trilliums splay out lavishly on the forest floor, and I’m reminded of a time long ago when I knew nearly nothing about this community.  I was drawn to the showy flower as a camp name back in grade school, but I knew nothing of when it emerges, what companions it finds, how it reproduces, or how people could work with it beyond admiring its silky white and pink petals.  A herald.

Now, despite greater knowledge and deeper experience in Cascadian woodlands, I am more humbled than ever by their complexity and beauty.  I have yet to know hundreds of plants that grow here, year after year, in the first flushes of spring or the dry spells of late summer.  I have yet to see native pollinators alight on myriad flowers, and the development of so many precious seed pods and fruits that will fatten over the next several months.  I know nothing of what lives between and beneath the thick humus layer that cushions my step and absorbs, so patiently, the steady drips and rivulets of a spring storm.  When the sunshine trickles past the gray clouds and brings the hundred hues of green back to their full brightness, I wonder how I– already nearly thirty years past and likely no more than twice that to come– could possibly know this forest in my lifetime.  There is so much to observe, to care for, and to love.  What birds are nesting overhead?  When do they sing, and what are their songs?  How many years will it take for that stream bank to crumble and create bare soil for new life to begin, again?  Who else loves this place, and what do they see that I yet overlook?  The minds and hearts that perceive these hillsides extend the realm of my humility that much further.  I know the crevices and crannies of my own self only one short lifetime more than I know the life outside.  There is much work and play of knowing at hand.  Let us continue it.

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