Reader, Walking

Place matters

The arbutus is now open everywhere in the woods and groves. How pleasant it is to meet the same flowers year after year ! If the blossoms were liable to change — if they were to become capricious and irregular — they might excite more surprise, more curiosity, but we should love them less; they might be just as bright, and gay, and fragrant under other forms, but they would not be the violets, and squirrel-cups, and ground laurels we loved last year. Whatever your roving fancies may say, there is a virtue in constancy which has a reward above all that fickle change can bestow, giving strength and purity to every affection of life, and even throwing additional grace about the flowers which bloom in our native fields. We admire the strange and brilliant plant of the green-house, but we love most the simple flowers we have loved of old, which have bloomed many a spring, through rain and sunshine, on our native soil.

Rural Hours April 27
Susan Fenimore Cooper
emphasis mine
Hepatica AKA “Squirrel-Cups” … we didn’t find any this year!

As I’ve been considering walk this year for my word, one of the big issues I’ve been grappling with is *place* … it matters where you walk, dwell, the paths, the gates, the fields, the ground. It matters to your steadiness and foot placement (ahem) and to your soul.

When friends tell me they are going to Nepal to fill their creative well, or to Machu Picchu to do a prayer walk, my first response has always been a generous twinge of envy, but my second thought is, Can you restore your soul by taking it to places where it won’t know the other souls? Where the way the creek turns, the quality of the sunlight, the conversation of the birds will all be unfamiliar? … … pack lightly, get my best walking sandals on, and head out the door.

The Road is How by Trevor Herriot
quoted in God Walk by Mark Buchanan, pg 63
emphasis mine

I know we live in an incredibly mobile society. We move about state to state or even country to country but there’s something about home that matters. There’s something about knowing the flora and fauna that you’re surrounded by that gives rest.

Last week, I found a Jack-in-the-Pulpit. I know where it grows. I know where to watch. We know where the rue anemone and bloodroots and dutchman’s breeches grow. Their constancy is confirmation that spring is coming and going on as it should.


I learned about may apples at sixth grade camp (the entire sixth grade went for 3 days or so to a boy scout camp). Sixth grade was a misery, but I did learn about may apples. Even though they’re not all that exciting, I still love finding them blooming. I know their name but I also know their place and I generally know their time (I think the may apple blossoms are a little early this year).

I think Susan Fenimore Cooper is right that the local wildflowers are old, comfortable friends. They’re who we come to know and love. There are glamorous flowers that can be purchased from the florist, but they’re not from here, but they aren’t greeted and sought for in the same manner. We might make much of them, but they aren’t the same sort of joy.

There are books that are the same. The comfort reads, the favorite author’s anticipated release, the ongoing series that you’re enjoying and looking for the next book of the same characters. Some people read the same books annually – I’ve thought about doing that but never have done so. That isn’t to say I don’t re-read, I do, but not on any particular scheduled routine.

I was struck by how the two quotes crossed over; the familiarity of our native space as balm to our souls: The place matters.


  1. I thought your writing and photos were lovely, and I also appreciate Susan Fennimore Cooper’s writings! Thank you for sharing your thoughtful expressions.

  2. What a beautiful reminder. My mother-in-law actually just got some May Apples to plant in her yard. They’re native to her area, but none were growing near her before now.

    1. How fun! Dr. Moon just told me that she planted Solomon’s Seal after I shared a False Solomon’s Seal picture on IG. I tend to mark the native-native vs. the cultivated-native when I photograph and post. I don’t know that it truly matters … but it does.

  3. Last year, I was amazed at how rested I felt after spending a day in the woods (with three children in tow) looking for native wild flowers. This year, I was excited to go back to the same trail a x while we didn’t get nearly as far, I was so excited to see certain flowers growing and blooming earlier on the same trail than I thought they would be. It is like meeting an old friend, or in my case renewing an aquaintance because it is only the second year in a row on the same trail, to see the flowers we love and cherish. I never appreciated spring as much until the last few years. Now little shoots are so exciting because I know the blooms that will soon follow.

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