Trillium season

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Trillium season.

Today I stepped away from my desk for a walk in the woods at Decorah's own Malanaphy Springs, just a short drive from town, then a half-hour hike into the woods. Amazingly, I'd never been here despite living in Decorah for eleven years now. And shamefully – given all my research on screens and official disapproval of the way they mediate our lives – I found out about it from a friend's Facebook post that featured some beautiful pictures of little white flowers: trillium, which grow in profusion all over the sunny slope of the hill and cluster in sheltered places near the water. The lee of a rock. A damp place near a fallen log. A tuft of moss, and the soil that's accumulated around it, on the side of a boulder. They're a gentle presence but easy to miss, as the tallest ones aren't much taller than your thumb.

Something so small directs your attention, and directs it, too, to bigger things. Clambering down to the foot of the giant mossy boulders at the base of the bluff, where the stream falls spectacularly into the Upper Iowa River, I could see a whole water-borne world: thick carpets of moss, long strings of which swayed in the stream as it fell. Cold mist flew around me, reminding me that not so long ago this water had been ice, and, deep inside the talus slope above, it still was. Up at the top, where the spring gushes forth, I craned out over the crack in the limestone to listen to the unique sound the water made: a furious gurgle underlaid with an intermittent thrumming boom, like a musician knuckling a double bass to make that hollow body yield a new and startling noise.

Water of life, coming from inside that rock, deep inside the earth. How careless of it we are, and of the whole marvelous quiet world it supports out here, below and beyond our notice. How unseeing, how taking-for-granted. Wildflower, leaf-mould, woodpecker, chipmunk, discarded snail-shell that will crumble back to calcium in our soil. And trillium, also known by the evocative folk name "wake-robin" – waking up along with, and waking us up to, spring. How quietly and thoroughly these signs of seasons can tune up our vision of the world and place us in right relationship – meaning humility – to it, if we will only learn to see.

Amy Weldon

Amy Weldon

Amy Weldon, native Alabamian, is professor of English at Luther College and the author of three books: The Hands-On Life: How to Wake Yourself Up and Save The World (Cascade Books, 2018), The Writer's Eye: Observation and Inspiration for Creative Writers (Bloomsbury, 2018), and Eldorado, Iowa: A Novel (Bowen Press Books, 2019). Her website is

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  • April 12 2016 at 12:50 pm
    Lise Kildegaard

    What a beautiful tribute to a beautiful place--you made me hear the music of the spring in a new way. Be sure to return for another hike in a week or so, to see the Spring Beauties and the Virginia Bluebells!

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