I want to be where the fairies live. In Maine, the fairies find refuge in the rich, moist, deciduous woods that provide the greenery to float and flourish from flower to foliage. After a long cold spring and before the forest is in full leaf, the ground warms and blooms with woodland plants. The fairies navigate through the early bunchberries, forget-me-nots, violets, trilliums, foxtails, and ferns where they thrive under the shelter of tall trees. In this place, away from the noise and chaos of living, that I feel happy and at home in my secret garden.
Swatting the black flies and mosquitos, I walk along a familiar path in the woods. It is an annual forest-bathing ritual that awakens my soul and imagination. There is much to see and hear in this magical spot, under my feet and above my head. I move mindfully, trying not to disturb the natural complexity of the ecosystem that sustains many species of plants, insects, reptiles, birds, and foraging animals. Though not seen, at my feet the salamanders slither under the dark richness of leaf compost and the hermit thrush is building a nest in the low ground shrubs. Though not seen, above my head squirrels are jumping in the treetops, a warm breeze is dancing, and an eagle keeps a watchful eye. Life in the woods is lush and busy for fairies and all the plants and creatures, and me. It is alive with sounds, smells, colors, and textures. My painter’s eye and heart are full.
On this late spring day, the woodland flowers are giving a grand show, featuring a pink Lady’s Slipper that looks more like a Hollywood movie star than a rare plant. Having visited my secret garden for many seasons, a cluster of perennial foliage draws my eye to the big guy. Under a green canopy of aerial leaves, a Jack-in-the-pulpit, standing nearly 24 inches, reminds me that nature is the best artist and architect. No wonder the fairies dwell here.
Jack-in-the-pulpit loves shade and remote places in northern woodland environments. It is one of the most unusual and easily identifiable native perennial plants in Maine. The florescent-green and maroon striped spathe is “the pulpit” which covers and contains a spadix or the “Jack” where tiny flowers of both sexes bloom and that will become the plant’s fruits and seeds. Actually, the flower is unisexual and some of the less sexy common names by which it is known are Indian turnip or bog onion because of the bulb-like corm that shoots up a thick, scape-like flower. Still, in the neighborhood where fairies live, its exotic structure is like seeing the Taj Mahal or Notre Dame Cathedral. A botanical icon of beauty and wonder, the plant evokes something deep in the spirit that is revered and loved, as if a miniature fairy queen will emerge from the pulpit with blessings and prayers. In the early weeks of June, a rare moment seeing these flowers gives me hope knowing there is a fresh summer season with more adventures ahead in the woods. So, into the woods I go to find my fairy glow and peace in my secret garden.