Tuesday, April 19, 2016

The Wild Iris Are Blooming - Iris verna

At long last, the scraggly old oak has given up the ghost, 
and the sugary white sand at its foot is almost completely obscured beneath the layer of
lichen-encrusted twigs and branches brought down by the winds of March. 

The same stiff breeze that brought low the limbs has gathered the brittle brown leaves of several years past, assembling a montage of earth tones and dry, crumbling textures
from what was once verdant and alive.

A rather desolate scene it would be,
were it not for the iris...

Iris verna.

Dwarf iris, Dwarf wild iris, or Violet iris;
by any name you choose,
you won't forget her soon,

and here in the poor sandy soil beneath the long leaf pine and the hickory and the old dead oak,

it just wouldn't be Spring without her!

I can still remember the thrill I felt as a nine year old boy, 
my breath catching at the first flash of purple here under the oak,

then racing up to the house to report that the wild iris were blooming, 

knowing that Mama and Jim and my siblings would all be as excited as I at the annual arrival of these little woodland sprites, 

so splendidly clad in their royal hues of purple and gold.

We knew all the spots where they had been known to appear, 
but this location and one other behind the house 
among the wire grass and the turkey oaks 
were always worth watching, 
and the most reliable by far. 

And for some reason, as a young boy, 
I took great pride in being the first to report their arrival. 

Silly, perhaps, but true.

I suspect now that the exhilaration of discovery was to a large degree relief;

that the busy-ness of our lives, 
even then, 
some four decades ago, 

had not progressed to the point that we would completely overlook 
such a significant marker of Spring;

for their stay is so brief, and their arrival time so fickle,
that a single week without vigilance 
could doom us to a two year wait between sightings!  

I swear I felt that same old thrill on Saturday when Papa Jim called with the news...

"Jimmy," he began, 
"I just drove the jeep down to the end of the yard, and the old wild iris are blooming..."

When I arrived, late Sunday afternoon, 
there were thirteen
glorious wild iris blossoms 
smiling from the shade of the old dead oak,  

and as I knelt stiff-kneed in the sand,

my little-boy heart sang out,

"The Wild Iris are blooming!"

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