In Every Wood, In Every Spring…
“In every wood, in every spring, there is a different green,” wrote JRR Tolkien long ago, sitting by his library wood fire, his hand moving slowly over parchment.
Every spring is unique. This season revealed its singularity early on by its lingering cold and frequent rain. Cold weather, I always feel, is harder to bear once the year has moved past the vernal equinox – when the light has increased and the body’s internal set point has adjusted to the expectation of warmth – than it is in winter when you have already spent months weaning off of all warmth. And the darkness is warring with the light.
This year, the first show of uniqueness was the blooming of the Pieris Japonica Mountain Fire. The Pieris put on a never-ending parade, coming to bloom all at once with its spilling blossoms, pearl-like, myriad thousands, abundant, fragrant, utterly unlike any year that I had seen before. For a reliable shrub that is nice enough, but usually no great shakes, this was a show-stopping year. I’ve never seen the like. And the cold spring weather helped them to linger on and on, a beautiful contrast for the yellow tipped daffodils and bright forsythia.
After which, the show moved to the trees, as the early magnolias moved from bud to blossom, star magnolias in virginal white, yellow pear and purple-pink. Due to the rainy summer we experienced last year, the magnolias this year had grown much larger. So there was an amplitude of blossoms coming into bloom.
Next, the red-buds began to peep out along their red-brown branches, their color like a cloud of striking blue-pink, the sight of them arresting.
Though my old-fashioned lilacs barely put out flowers this year (last year, in contrast, they were magnificent), purple and fuchsia azaleas blossomed flamboyantly all through my neighborhood. Every inch upon every bush was entirely taken over by blooms that emitted an intoxicating scent. They lasted and lasted and lasted, each day its own blessing, until one day last week when unseasonal heat and humidity settled in for a short stay. The very next day the blossoms lay, already faded and decomposing, at the foot of their bushes.
But now the rhododendrons are putting forth their yearly show. And the clematis, their blossoms a hand’s width wide, in white and pink and purple stripes. And the early peonies, grown tall and magnificent and full of blossoms from all the rain, are now coming to bloom. The roses will be next, climbing high, layered and luxuriant.
The marvel of a rainy spring is the profusion of bloom and the green that arises everywhere. In a mere month, we move from a greyed-out landscape with our eyes searching for any sprig of green to a green so abundant, it feels like we are living in the midst of a rain forest, though a
tamed and charming one.
Since the color green exists at the middle of the range of wavelengths that are perceptible to the human eye, we see it more easily and better than any other color along the visible spectrum. Perhaps for that reason, the color calms the human nervous system, reduces stress naturally, moves us more easily into a para-sympathetic relaxation response. In other words, being outside in the green-green world has many of the same health benefits that deep breathing does or meditation.
The parasympathetic state is so important because it is only when the body is in this state that its natural healing mechanisms can come into play. So the next time you feel unduly stressed, remember that taking yourself outside to walk on the wildside, through the green-green hills, can do you a world of good, however invisibly. Your body will be better able to shuck off the stress and begin to heal any symptoms that you are currently experiencing.
Walk, breathe, heal. And enjoy the greenway.